Monthly Archives: Aug 2015

If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.

Chinua Achebe
300 Prompts

The Wind Speaks

Another Saturday, another writing prompts for my 300 Prompts project. This week, the prompt is mystical in nature: You are the wind’s interpreter. What is it saying?

Feel free to play along on your own blog (and link to the post in the comments) or comment with your own response.

The Wind Speaks

What does the wind say? I like to imagine it’s a playful spirit.

What’s happening? Where am I going? Where have I been?

Ohhh, look at those pretty colorful bubbles dancing in my breeze? Uh oh, they’re drifting away. Their strings are left dangling. Don’t go! Come back! The sun is too hot. You’ll pop!

Whew! I’m hot.

Brrrr, now I’m cold.

Yay here comes the rain. Let’s dance!

Uh oh, now I’m pissed. How dare lightning and thunder interfere with my pretty sunshower? It. Makes. Me. So. Mad! I’ll whip this rain around and show them they can’t mess with me.

Oh no, I got carried away, didn’t I? I didn’t mean to pick up that fence and that pretty blue car…or that silly brown cow.

Mmmm, I’m tired and the sun is out now. I think I’ll sit still for a while…

And yes, I’m sure the wind has more to say than all that, but that could fill pages and pages.

Check out past 300 prompts.

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It Really is a Lovely Day #FridayJams

I’ve got the love of a good man. I’ve got beautiful children. I’ve got a loving (and crazy) family. Based on that alone, it’s always a lovely day.

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Random Musings

All Cancer Sucks – But It Sucks Less When You Have Options

All Cancer Sucks - But It Sucks Less When You Have Options

Cancer is nothing new in my life.

Long before my almost sister-in-law was diagnosed with and finally succumbed to cancer, I knew all about the deadly motherfucker.

My maternal grandparents both died from cancer.

My maternal great-grandmother died from cancer.

I have no doubt that others in my family, long before I was born, died or dealt with cancer in some way. It seems to be part of our family legacy.

When my aunt, my mother’s baby sister, told me she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I couldn’t even pretend surprise. Between the three of us (my mom, my aunt, and myself), I think we’re all acutely aware that this is and always will be a real possibility in our family. Still, I cried and I fretted.

I found out just as my almost SIL was going downhill. The very real fragility of life was in front of my face. There was no way I wasn’t going to be with my aunt (who’s always been more friend than parental figure) through some of this.

As with everything, no two situations are alike.

Instead of a death sentence, she had options. At the end of the day, she chose an aggressive approach – full double mastectomy and reconstruction. Given our history, my mom and I agree we would make a similar decision.

Today, my aunt is having surgery. Tomorrow night, her little family will descend – with all our humor and all our crazy. Both she and my uncle should probably worry. We don’t do sit-quietly-by-the-bedside well.

She was given options and she’s exercising them. The diagnosis is no less stressful, but the reality is completely different. For once, none of us have to stare death in the face.

I don’t know what to expect when I see her 24-hours post surgery. Will she be dopey with her pain meds? Will she be able to stay awake long enough to crack one of her infamous jokes so we can defuse the tension and have a laugh? Will there be complications? How much help will she need? I don’t know any of those answers yet, but I’ll be there.

None of us is so overly confident that we think future cancer scares have been eliminated – not in our family where breast, ovarian, lung, and pancreatic cancers are just the tip of our iceberg. But we have real solutions, real options, and lots of hope.

It also helps that we prefer to laugh when it gets tense instead of cry.

We take very little for granted in my family. We know what it means to lose someone – slowly and painfully until you wish they could find peace in death, just to stop the pain. That kind of knowledge shapes you, like iron in a fiery forge.

Even as we plan a long life with each other (I firmly believe, they need to live until they’re well over 100 and we’ll all just go out together, thank you very much), we still understand that cancer is a reality. So, in October, my mother will do the BRCA screening to test for breast cancer. If she’s negative, hallelujah and praise gawd. If not, she’ll deal with whatever the results mean, and I’ll go get tested too.

Every generation should learn from the one before. In our family, we take care of our health – at least in the big ways (don’t judge us for our love of all things sweet and our lack of desire/time for exercise). We won’t flinch from cancer screenings, the options we’re given, and the reality that we may have to face cancer on a much more personal level. We’ve seen the awful results when family members ignore their own health care and their own symptoms.

Until then, I’m going to hug my aunt, thank the Universe it was caught early, and hope that we can pretend cancer doesn’t exist for a little while longer.

Image via Linda Bilyeu

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Writer Life

I Need to Write Something

someecards-on-writingPretty much.

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To This Year’s Teachers, I Lied To You

To This Year's Teachers, I Lied to You

Yesterday was the first day of school. The week before that was Orientation. If either Aidan or Sean’s teachers even saw me in the crush of parents and students, I’m pretty sure they didn’t recognize me. I lied to them so bad. So, so bad.

For that, I’ll make my apology public. It’s the least I can do.

To This Year’s Teachers…

Do you remember that woman who stepped into your classroom last week? She wore a skirt, heels, jewelry, make-up, and a bra. The bra was the real miracle. She smiled and shared the good and the not-so-good about her children. She looked calm and put together, a picture of motherly grace.

She was going for “cute” and “put together.”

If you looked closely, you might have realized her ankles wobbled on those wedge sandals – yes, a wedge. Yes, she wobbled. They weren’t flip flops, okay??

You might have noticed she had no clue how to bend down in a skirt without accidentally showing everyone London and France. She fidgeted with her necklace and bracelet and twirled her butterfly ring around on her finger. Her purse was purple and Bohemian which should have told you all you needed to know.

She was me. And she was a lie.

There’s a reason you didn’t recognize me yesterday. The sloppy bun, yoga pants, and platform flip flops you saw are my usual uniform. For you, I put on a bra. You’re welcome.

This is the real me. Sloppy, comfortable, heading straight back home to hole up in a dark room with my laptop. I don’t socialize. I don’t volunteer. Unless I have no choice, this will probably be the last time you see my face in your classroom until parent-teacher conferences.

I sound like a hot mess, don’t I? I know.

But I gave you my best face so that I could blend in and show that I really do care about my children, even if I have no interest in mommy-gossip at the crosswalk, bringing in sugary treats on birthdays, or planning anything at the school.

They will come to school dressed appropriately. My one and only attempt at appropriate was to prove that I know how it’s done. What you may see over the school year is for my benefit. A little, “Do as I say, not as I do” for the boys.

They will be prepared. They will have what they need. And when you see me in the car pick-up lane and wonder what the hell happened to me and where my bra is, you’ll know that I am capable of better – and so are the boys.

So yes, I lied to you at that first meeting. Hell, I’ll probably lie to you again at the first conference. If you don’t recognize me outside of those two times, its okay. I prefer to be invisible. As long as you see my kid’s bright shining face in your classroom – squeaky clean, in uniform, and ready to go, the rest is window dressing. (And I haven’t washed a window in years.)

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Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.

Mary Shelley
300 Prompts

What’s “Worth It?”

Welcome back to a 300 Prompt Saturday! This week’s prompt is to write about something presently in your life that is “worth it.” Want to join in on the fun? Leave your response to the prompt in the comments below OR write about it on your own blog and share the link in the comment section.

Check out past 300 Prompts

What's "Worth It?"

What’s worth it? It probably sounds trite to say “everything” because it everything really worth what we put into it? Everything includes the big and the small, the exciting and the mundane.

Here’s the thing – I firmly, truly, and completely believe that everything that happens in life, happens for a reason. We didn’t become the people, good or bad, we are today, without the things that happened in the past, even if the “past” is five seconds ago. Sometimes it’s easier to see – big events cause big changes and shifts. But sometimes it’s the small stuff.

Example? My love of sugar, small and meaningless over the past 35 years has slowly brought me to a point where one day without it causes a headache bordering on a migraine. Small things, details that don’t matter, add up to bigger moments or experiences.

So what, right now, is “worth it” more than say eating a salad versus a hamburger or reading science fiction over a romance novel? Basically, what’s a big enough thing to matter most?

Don’t make me pick.

My boys are always worth it. Even when I’m pulling out my hair, fighting over whether they can have a peanut butter sandwich or a cheese sandwich or yelling at them to stop touching the other’s penis.

John is worth it. He’s one of the best human beings I’ve ever known. He speaks politely. He remembers people. He holds doors for strangers. He never leaves an event without thanking the host. He’s a good person. He’s also the best man I’ve ever met. The love of my life. Worth any sacrifice…and he’s never asked me to make a real sacrifice.

My family is worth it. In a week, I’ll be on a plane headed to the other side of Florida to be with family. My aunt, the person who’s been more friend than parent to me my whole life, is undergoing surgery. I can’t be there for the day of surgery but I can be there the day after. During her recovery, I’ll probably go see her a few more times. My immediate family is teeny-tiny. If we hadn’t married (or in my case, had children), there would only be the three of us: my mom, my aunt (the baby sister), and me. I’ve always known the value of family. It won’t be easy to make the trips, but it will definitely be worth it.

Writing is worth it. I don’t write enough. For those who seem to read everything I write (I love all three of you very much, lol), you’d probably disagree. But I have so many storylines in my head, so many ideas, that I should write more. When I can figure out how to live on no sleep and teach the boys to cook and clean for themselves (something we’re working on), maybe I’ll find the time. My own lost sleep and forgotten meals are worth it when it comes to writing. But I can’t seem to make myself do it to anyone else.

Reading is worth it as it makes me a better writer and provides an escape.

Trips to the grocery store are worth it, especially when I get to go alone.

Rides on motorcycles, trips to the doctor, text messages with my friends – all the things that make us happy, teach us something, or expand our horizons are worth it.

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Oh Yes, Let’s SAIL #FridayJams

Love AWOLNATION, love this song.

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New School, New Teachers, Same Worries

I have despaired of my children’s education for years. Public education was always the only option for me as a child, and I wasn’t fearful of it being the option for my children.

As a kid, I had some great teachers, some not-so-great, and yes, some freaking assholes. But I also loved school, learned plenty, and still carry good memories of that time. I know things change, but I had faith in public education.

Then I sent Aidan to school. It wasn’t that he had awful teachers. He didn’t. Kindergarten and first grade were great. Second grade, so-so. Third grade, better than the year before. Fourth grade was good because he’s relatively intelligent, a good boy, and doesn’t need a lot of direction. Each teacher was distinct, and Aidan is slowly learning how to deal with different types of authority figures.

What I learned, to my horror, is the staggering differences that can be found between schools within the same district, districts in the same state, and teachers within the same school.

Then, just as I was starting to worry he would only ever be taught to the test, we moved as a nation to Common Core, and I despaired that my child would never learn basic math – mostly because I could no longer teach him. (Hi, my name is Michaela, and I can’t understand Common Core math.)

He’s been in schools with fewer resources but teachers who care. He’s been in schools with more resources and teachers who seem to be tired (and yes, I know teachers are overworked). His last school was a very poor school which, thankfully, meant it received extra resources from the school district. One of the few fortunate ones in Pinellas County, apparently.

I’m from small-town southern America. The choices you have in school options are one, maybe two choices. Take it or leave it. While Aidan was in 4th grade, after we’d moved to the “big city,” I began to realize that other options abound, but only if you’re fortunate enough to win a lottery or brave enough to home school.

I have zero aptitude for home schooling. I already know, six years early, that I won’t be the one teaching Aidan to drive a car. No teaching bones exist in my body, and I have zero desire to find out if I can muddle through.

Thankfully, in our part of the world, charter schools are almost as numerous as the regular schools. When I received a brochure for a local STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) school that was already doing well after only three years in existence, I knew we had to try.

By the grace of a mysterious Universe or the luck of the draw, both boys made it in for this next school year.

Sean heads off to kindergarten, my last baby, my shy guy.

Aidan is a big boy fifth grader.

No one is excited about the school uniforms. Aidan because he has a distinct sense of style even at age 10. Sean because he doesn’t like belts. (Who knew?) Me? Well, I’m the one that has to get the school patch on the uniform shirt without it being on the wrong side, upside down, or off-center (because my OCD nature can’t handle it).

Neither boy is excited about making new friends. Aidan has been to four elementary schools since kindergarten. He’s tired of moving around. I’m tired of it for him. I hope this will become his academic home. Sean simply doesn’t believe he’s capable of making friends, even as he regales me with tales of his Boys and Girls Club summer camp friends.

I’m hopeful that I’ve found the right place for them. They are both interested in STEM topics in their own way. The school spends a lot of time on math and science, and the all important state testing is still a factor.

But they also remember to nourish their minds in other ways. There are a dozen after school clubs (most of which are free) that cover music, gardening, art, and other topics that can’t be covered in the school day.

It doesn’t matter that the new school gives me the warm fuzzies simply by effectively communicating via email or having a well functioning website filled to the brim with info. It doesn’t matter that the boys’ eyes light up at the thought of joining the Lego robotics club. I’m still going to worry that they’re getting a good education, making a few friends, and being prepared for life after school.

It’s a new school with new teachers, but the worries and fears are all the same.

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