Sunday, August 26, 2018

Preparing for the Worst, Hoping for the Best - an Unfitting Tribute to Dr Rubin

Loads of other people have had a much harder summer than I have had. Loads of other people have had a much BETTER summer I’m sure. Of course, for Aretha Franklin, John MCCain, and my Oncologist from when I was a kid, Dr Rubin, this was their last summer. 

Certainly their summers were worse. 

Dr Rubin. He passed away a few days ago and it feels like a chunk of my life has dropped away. He once told my parents to brace for my death. That it was coming, sooner, rather than later. I cannot believe I am still here and he is not. He taught me a lot. He taught me not to judge a book by it’s cover. (I hope that man isn’t my doctor, he looks pretty scary). 

He taught me its okay to dream but you have to face facts too. He once sat me down and told me, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

It has been my guiding principle since that day. In every situation where I am unsure, those words have never failed to prepare me for a way out. I learned so much from him, and I’m sure he had no idea. I learned decisions have real-world consequences. I learned sometimes the right thing is not the easy or nice thing to do. I learned you can disagree with someone and still like them. I learned giving up is for losers. I learned everyone gives up sometimes and you just have to shake off that ‘I’m a loser’ stank and get back up again.

I don’t remember much from the day shortly after my 16th birthday when he told me the Leukemia came back but I do remember he cried. He thought he was telling me I was going to die. I did too. I think we all did.

I never got a chance to introduce him to Ellie and Ben and now I never will and for that I am sorry. He would have gotten a kick out of them. It would have made him smile for a minute, a second out of a day devoted to people in some of the worse situations of their lives. The kind of emotional stamina it takes for a compassionate heart to stay in an oncology wing day after day, week after week, I can’t even imagine. He was always on call. Nosebleeds on a Sunday? He’s there. Extra blood work needs looked at on a Saturday morning? He was there.

This is an unfitting tribute to Dr Rubin, who deserves trumpets and angels choirs (although he would have hated it) and loads of fan-fare for just showing up at work each day. Who deserves so much more than the gratitude and appreciation of one former ‘chemo-kid’ whose life he has impacted so much.

Thank you Dr R - I literally would not be here if it wasn’t for your dedication to my well being, usually at the expense of your own. And I know I’m only one of hundreds, thousands of people you have struggled to pull back into health. Into life. What else is there to say? Thank you.

A special thank you to all the nurses and doctors who are still striving to keep your heart and spirit while coping with the scariest stuff out there for us humans, disease. Like the police you see people at their worst. Sometimes that scours away pretense and reveals heroic, amazing individuals. I’m sure just as often it exposes the fear and smallness we manage to hide when things are all going well. Maybe sometimes all of that from the same person, on the same day.

To everyone out there who’s ever been sick, or cared for someone who was. Who has ever given up and felt bad about it, who’s ever reacted to bad news with less grace and stoicism as they’d have liked…like Taylor says, just shake it off, shake it off. 

You can do this. 

Just remember to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Then chill. There's nothing else a human can do.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Getting Lost on Hope Road

So I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. A school counsellor! With a side of yoga teacher with a side of stay at home mom with a side of writer/poet and a teensy dessert of gardener.

The GRE I have been studying for all summer is next Saturday. On Friday, I found out I may need my teaching certification before I can go into the masters program. #Stymied. #Shouldn’tlifebeeasier. 

I’m still waiting to clarify things but for now, I’m in a holding pattern again. 

Meantime I’ve applied to volunteer or substitute teach for this school year. Either way it’s clear I need to spend some time in schools to make sure this is a path I will be happy with long term. 

It’s like the other day when I took a wrong turn and the GPS had me on some funky back roads and I was feeling stressed and confused and then I looked up and I saw it had brought me to ‘Hope road’, and I had to laugh. If you have to be lost, it’s nice to see a road out called hope.

I know I want to spend one more year at home. There are two reasons for this. Ellie. Benji.

Alright seriously, there are two reasons for this. One is this is Ellie’s last year before she goes to Kindergarten full time. And oh yes, I did NOT sign her up for pre-kindergarten. I am choosing not to stress over her falling behind academically when she’s four years old. She’s going to be fine. We’re going to spend one last year together and then she’s in school for the next hundred years. This time is precious to me.

Benji is going to end up getting the ‘that’s-rough-kid’ end of the stick because this will probably be my last year with him too, at least full-time devoted to them. He’ll be almost three when I go back to school next fall. Or work. Or maybe the time will come and I’ll say; ‘Maybe one more year?’

I don’t know. I hope not. The benefits of staying home for him are too numerous to count. Up to a point. Then his little brain slows down it’s crazy growth and he will need some social exposure as well as learning to be independent from me. Hopefully when that times comes I will bite the bullet and just do it. Some days I don’t know how I’m going to make it another year and stay sane. Some days I can’t believe how fast the time is flying and I just want to hug them and hold them and keep them babies forever.

And that’s life right? The bitter and the sweet side by side. Every decision we make holds consequences that are lovely and right, are terrible and unexpected, and everything in between.

For now I’m gathering more information, including how I feel about school vs work and I’m putting one foot in front of the other. And when I get lost, I'm looking for hope and it usually finds me.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hugs, High Fevers, and Holy Octopus Batman!

I’m eating ice cream right now. Lots of ice cream.

Benji has had three high fevers since May. He just kicked a dosey, but right before he did his temperature soared to 105 at midnight Wednesday night. I try not to let it seep out but the panic was there in my chest, like an Octopus on crack. When he got better he broke out in a rash. Now he’s stuffy again. Is he getting a cold? Another one?

The doctor asked us to get a CBC on Thursday and right away let me say that the counts came back normal. But the nurse was awful. Clearly her first time? 

I was sitting on the cot, Benji straddling me so I could wrap both arms around him and hold him steady. She had that needle in and couldn’t ‘get the vein’ and keep pulling it in and out and in and out and finally called for help while he screamed. And I tried to stay calm and not panic the girl with the needle in my baby’s arm. 

After it was done and he was taped up I realized Ellie had climbed up onto the cot with me and had her arms and legs wrapped around us both. That made me cry right there. A small circle of love braced against the pain the smallest of us was feeling right then. There is no end or beginning to the love I feel for those two.

Needless to say, we had ice cream that day too. Bigger than their heads ice cream that ended up melted all over their faces, chins, shirts, and car seats. Ask me how much I cared about that.

As anyone who knows me knows, that’s how my Leukemia-drama began. A high fever that wouldn’t come down. One CBC later and I was admitted to the hospital and although I didn’t know it then, I was at the height of the roller coaster called ‘kid w cancer’. 

So you can imagine the actual terror I felt. Am still feeling honestly. Stupid Octopus on crack there in my chest ready to start flailing around again at any second.

There are a lot of different ways people cope with pain. Food, alcohol, exercise, prayer, music, meditation, talking it out, not talking it out. Everyone has their own unique way of dealing with spikes of anxiety, fear, and pain. Everyone has had to figure out how to self-soothe.

I know I preach a lot about meditation and yoga and prayer but beyond clearly healthy and not healthy ways of coping I don’t think there’s any right way. Everyone needs to find it for themselves, and not judge anyone else how they find their own peace.

That’s all for today folks. Go hug your kids okay? And if they’re healthy, take a second to soak up that awesomeness. If not, pull them close because hugs are to pain like water is to oil. It’s hard to feel one when you’re overwhelmed by the other.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Following My Bliss or, Don't Eat the Sand, Eh?

So I am in the ocean at Galveston yesterday and Bill had to run to the facilities for a minute leaving me alone with both kids. 

The water was warm. The sand was soft and sucking on our toes as the water pushed and retreated. There were birds wheeling overhead or diving into the surf to catch a snack. 

Benji was toddling around and pointing to the ocean and saying ‘Pooo!’ which means, pool. Because everything is a pool. Creeks, rivers, lakes, puddles. Everything is a pool. At least, I hope so. Poo also means, well, poo.

In any case, Ellie was laughing and throwing mud into the ocean. I don’t know why. But try it. It is kind of fun. Just don't get any in your mouth. Yuck.

And then something crazy happened. I looked around, lots of people around but no one is paying attention to us because they have their own crazy kids to watch carefully.

I dropped in the shallow water and did a Vinyasa flow. I started in Cobra which is backwards but who cares. Pushed back into Down Dog. Benji laughed at me, my head upside down and he bent down and put his head in the wet sand. A toddler down dog. He has never done that before. I think he sensed my joy, my playful heart.

Then I shifted to mountain, scooping my arms up and wide, my heart open to the sun and the surf and the sand. Then down to touch my toes, half bend, then back down to plank and cobra, (spit out sand) finish up in Up-Dog. 

Then I did a few of my favorite poses, Wild Thing, sitting back bend and then I came up and just sat in Rock Pose, watching my kids. I know what you’re thinking. But people might be WATCHING you. And JUDGING you. Maybe they think you’re a crazy yoga lady!

And I have to say, yeah, maybe. But in that moment there was such profound contentment and peace that I’d rather have that, then the good opinion of people I will never see again and to whom I may not like even if I did meet them again.

I’ve been reading ‘Success Principles’ by Jack Canfield about how to be successful and how to figure out how to make money doing things you love to do. I think the theory is, you were made with a purpose and each time your heart leaps with joy, or bliss, that’s because that’s the way you were made. And you were made to follow that wherever it goes. And trust that because that’s how you were made, that’s how you are going to be taken care of. Somehow, in some form, you will find success.

Wow, right? 

So, I am going to trust that God put these desires in my heart; to write, to uplift my heart and steady my body in a yoga flow, to teach that joy to others, to fill my heart with everything that makes me happy. Loving on my kids, tending to my garden, and to follow every spark and event that arouses my curiosity. 

I am going to trust that I am who I am for a reason, and that alignment will happen at some time frame that is not my own.

I don’t know if I will ever be a full time yoga teacher, or make any money from my writing or if loving to grow things could be lucrative. No one is paying me to love every kid I come across whether I spend three minutes with them or a few years.

But I have to trust that in following these desires I will find both a way to make a living and a way to stay in my ‘happy’ place. Maybe I will find my place as an admin assistant in a yoga studio, or as an editor instead of a writer, or a school counselor or a million other ways and jobs I won’t even know exist until I start following those paths.

I will follow bliss, I will let go, and I will be grateful for what I have right now. My totally chaotic and imperfect life is filled with millions of small, perfect moments and I won't stop searching for more. Life's too short, eh?

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.” 
--Joseph Campbell

The Gift Of Nowhere To Go

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