Friday, September 21, 2018

The Ugly Spectrum

I’ve been having a lot of angst about my hair. I know. I KNOW! I’m so lucky to have hair to be stressed about. I know this.

And yet, I have to look in the mirror every single day, several times a day and I have to see my hair and it’s awful.

Tom told me recently that I am the only person in this entire world who thinks my hair is horrible.

I know he’s right and yet, as I told him, I’m also the only person who has to look at myself every day. I hate it so much right now.

Next week? I might love it. Probably not but it could happen.

See, here’s the thing. Ugly is a spectrum. There are different levels or stages of ugly, if you will. Right now, I’m on the very far end of the ugliest stage of ugly. I’m not happy at all.

Next week, I will be somewhere else on the Ugly Spectrum. I hope to inch my way up toward the Less Ugly end but who knows.

There is a spectrum of pretty too, but I’m nowhere near that one. I hope to get back on it at some point but I’m not holding my breath.

I realize that everyone out there (if anyone were reading this) would tell me I’m being ridiculous. I know I am. But I can’t help it. I can’t look at myself and see anything but the far end of the ugly spectrum. It’s sad really. I’m kind of sad, actually.

But I keep reminding myself that I’m so lucky. I’m alive. I have hair. Heck, one of my biggest complaints is that it’s thick and unruly. I realize how stupid that is. People WANT thick hair. Hell, I want thick hair. But not THIS particular thick hair, at least not today.

I’m ridiculous. I might be crazy. I know this is all residual issues relating to cancer and cancer treatment and figuring how to live after all that. My hair is just the most visible thing I have to focus on right now. I can’t focus on my stupid boobs, I can’t stop potential cancer from growing again. But I can bitch about my hair from now until next Tuesday. I can obsess about the stupid curl at the back of my head on the right side. I can worry that I’m starting to edge into mullet territory. I can think about when I’ll need to dye my gray roots again.

Hair is trivial, which is why I’m making such a big deal about it. The big stuff, the stuff that really scares the hell out of me, I can’t control any of that. I can, sort of, control my hair. So that’s what I cry about. If I were to start crying about cancer and all it entails, I might never stop.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Good Kid

A Good Kid

As I was hugging Lyss goodbye this morning before heading to work, she asked, “Do you want me to stop Dad from helping Livie with her homework tonight?”

I replied, “No, I don’t think he’ll try and help ever again. But thanks.”

She smiled and went back to brushing her teeth.

She’s a good one, that girl.

Our homework saga from the night before isn’t worth rehashing. I will just say that everyone learned their lesson. Some lessons were more painful than others but everyone learned.

As I started down the stairs, she called to me. “I’ll just keep an eye on them, play referee if I have to.”

I laughed and headed to work, confident that there would be one level head in the house until I got home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Who Gets to Decide Who’s Ready For What?

We spent Sunday afternoon in Battle Creek, Michigan with my mom and aunts and cousins. My Auntie L hosted a second annual tea party in Sabella’s honor. Sabella is the daughter of my cousin. She’ll be thirteen in November. She’s wheelchair bound and is ‘homeschooled’. I put that in air quotes because I’m not sure how much schooling she actually gets. She’s incredibly lonely. The school she attended for the first few years of her schooling life was horrible to her and so her mom pulled her out of school, intending to homeschool her. But S is very stubborn and her mom works and so…she doesn’t get much schooling is what I’m saying.

But that’s not actually what this post is about.

It’s about my aunt L and her homophobia.

Let’s back up a bit. Alyssa was hounding me all weekend about leaving this party early because she wanted to go see a movie with N. I’d reminded her several times that she’s pretty much spent the entire previous week with N because FAIR WEEK. She acknowledged this but still wanted us to leave by 3:00 so she could see that movie.


When we got to the party at a little before noon, we were some of the first to arrive. No big deal, we helped with final set up and picked our table.

My cousins E and L arrived soon after we did with E’s daughter S and E’s niece M. M quickly zeroed in on Lyss and they introduced themselves. M is seventeen, though she looks about thirteen. She’s adorable, for what it’s worth.

They became fast friends. It was nice to see.

As the Tea Party got started Auntie L read a letter my cousin H had found in our cousin Amy’s trunk. Remember Amy? She died this past February. Amy had stored some things at H’s house and so H went through them and found a letter that had been sent to my grandmother from her daughter, Debra. Debra died when she was nineteen. This letter had been sent to my grandma just a few months before she died.

After she read the letter, Auntie L talked about when Debra first got sick at thirteen. She said that after Debra came home from the hospital for the first time a couple of neighbors came over to visit. According to Auntie L (who was eleven at the time…for what it’s worth) these neighbors were lesbians and they forced Debra to bathe in front of them. This has made Auntie L hate all lesbians for the rest of time.

She stopped talking at this point and let the subject drop.

I glanced at Lyss to see how she was doing. We’d heard this story before, while Auntie L was cutting my hair several months before. She hadn’t dropped the subject quite as quickly that time.

I could tell from the look in M’s face that Lyss had shared with M the fact that A has a girlfriend.

M asked of Auntie L knows that Lyss has a girlfriend.

I said, “No, I don’t think she’s ready to know.”

M suggested that maybe knowing would make her ready.

And maybe she’s right.

But maybe Lyss isn’t ready to be the post child for lesbians and be the one to make Auntie L rethink every single bias she’s ever had concerning lesbians and bisexual people for the past fifty plus years.

Honestly, to me, this isn’t about Auntie L and her issues, it’s about letting Lyss feel safe. It’s about protecting her and letting her set the tone for when she comes out, to whom she comes out and how far out she’s willing to be at any point in her life. These are not my choices. These are her choices.

And I support them.

While sitting there, I did tell my cousin E about Alyssa and N. We’d shown off Lyss’s homecoming dress and E asked if Lyss was going with a date or if she was going with a bunch of friends.

I told her Lyss was going with a date and then told her about N. I asked Lyss to let me show E a picture of her and N. E was very supportive and asked if Lyss was okay with what Auntie had said.

Lyss confirmed that she was fine.

After that, my mom came over and asked Lyss if she’d found an N charm for the bracelet all the girls were making. We’d found each girls’ own initial but when my mom offered to look for an N for Alyssa, that helped. My mom has had a hard time accepting N but when faced with blatant homophobia, she comes through and for that I’m proud of her and appreciate her.

I will continue to let Alyssa decide when and how she wants to talk about her relationship with N. I will support her however she needs, up to and including telling off a beloved Auntie if that’s what Alyssa needs from me. We keep the lines of communication open and talk about this stuff as much as she wants/lets me. We’re still figuring it all out but at least we’re on the same side…always.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

5p- At Almost Twelve

Now, I know we’re not a typical family living with 5p- syndrome. I get that. I acknowledge how lucky we are.

But we continue to live with our version of it.

And it’s not always easy. I am very aware that it could be and is so much worse for a lot of other families out there but knowing others have it worse doesn’t necessarily make things easier for us. You know?

So here we are. She’ll be twelve in November. She’s in fifth grade. She’s so funny and sweet and smart and stubborn and sometimes frustrating.

At home she loves her tablet, she loves running and letting her dad swat her with a fly swatter. She would prefer it if we’d just still spoon feed her breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I refuse, but some days, Tom feels like it’s just easier. Honestly, it’s laziness on both their parts. Liv doesn’t want to do the work of spooning food into her own mouth and Tom doesn’t want to do the work of fighting with her to spoon the food into her own mouth.

Some days, I’ll fight the fight, urging her over and over to just eat her food. Other days, I figure if she’s hungry enough she’ll eat. If she isn’t hungry enough, well, there’s always another meal in a few hours. The child is not going to starve to death.

At eleven years and ten months old, she’s almost 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs around 105 pounds. So yeah, not gigantic, but not to the point that missing one meal or hell, just part of one meal is going to lead to her being hospitalized due to starvation.

So that’s happening.

She’s sleep well these days, thank you Lord. I’m so very grateful for that because when my kids sleep well, I sleep well. At one point over the summer, she was waking me up consistently at least once, sometimes twice a night. I let this happen for about four nights before I had a little talk with her during the light of day. I reminded her that night time is for sleeping and if she wakes up and sees that it’s still dark, she should just roll over and go back to sleep. She should NOT wake me up because she’s lonely. I told her that if she was sick, as in throwing up or in a lot of pain, she could wake me up and tell me. But if she can’t find the book light or ball or turtle light she sleeps with, well, I am not getting out of bed to help her find one of those things. She can wait until morning.

After that talk, she hasn’t woken me up again. So I’m checking off the box beside, “Mature enough to understand that Mom needs her sleep more than Liv needs her book light.”

Each fall, right before school starts, we reteach her how to tie her shoes. She wears flip flops all summer and just doesn’t care enough about tying her shoes to remember the process. I mean, why should she when she’s got parents who will teach and teach and teach it to her and then, when she takes her sweet time doing each morning, will just tie the damn things herself?

There are a lot of things I know Liv is capable of but that she either doesn’t want to do or that we don’t bother making her. I know we’re doing her a disservice and I’m working on that.

At school…her teachers are amazing. She is in the mainstream class for science and social studies. She’s in a smaller class with an aide and a special education teacher for reading and math. She joins the other fifth graders for gym, technology, art, music and media center. She doesn’t seem to mind school but I don’t think she particularly enjoys it.

She doesn’t have what I would call friends. She knows everyone, everyone knows her. Everyone is kind but since she still doesn’t interact with her peers, she simply can’t make friends. Right now, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She seems to think her peers are weird and annoying. But honestly, if she’s lonely, how can I know unless she tells me? She’s not very good at naming her emotions, though we’ve used the movie Inside Out to help her figure out what she’s feeling.

The emotion she expresses most often is joy. And for that I’m grateful. I want her to know joy. I want her to know contentment and love and happiness. I want her to have friends, though, too. I want her to feel like she fits in. I worry about loneliness and feeling left out.

We spent time with my nephew who is ten and a cousin’s daughter (sort of like a niece, right?) who is nine. Olivia had a blast with them. Stella, the ‘niece’ is what her mom describes as weird too. She’s very intense, very mature for her age and so very serious. Jaxon is so very much a typical ten year old boy. He kind of bridged the gap between Olivia and Stella. They seemed to have a blast on Sunday afternoon. They all got so dirty and that actually made me happy because Olivia isn’t usually one to play outside in the dirt and neither is Stella. Those girls needed that boy to teach them how to play.

All of this is why we continue to push for Olivia to have as much time with her typical peers as possible. She watches them and I definitely think she’s learning from each interaction, even if she doesn’t appear to be doing so. She takes it all in and I hope she’s learning to read tone of voice, facial expressions, conversational give and take. She does all this with Jaxon but she’s been with that kid her entire life. I want her to learn to do it with others beyond her very small circle of family. These days, she will talk to me, Tom, Alyssa, my mom, my step dad and Jaxon. She’ll have actual conversations with all of us, give and take, telling stories, listening to us, asking questions, waiting for answers but for others? This doesn’t happen.

She will whisper to her teachers still. Her aide, a woman who has been working with Olivia for several years, has the most luck getting her to converse with her. But new people are tough for her. She does love to go to school and tell her aide, teachers and therapists stories about what happens at home, so…we have to be careful at home. Ha! Not that there’s a lot of craziness happening at home, I mean, we’re seriously boring people.

I think the older she gets the bigger the gap between her and her peers gets. I don’t really let it bother me that much, honestly. I mean, she’s my girl, I adore her (even when I’m exasperated by homework sagas, food issues, a puddle outside the bathtub, etc.) She’s so joyful and so much fun to watch and listen to. So she’s not your typical fifth grader, so what?

My mom notices, though. We go to football games together. Obviously not to watch the actual football game but to watch Alyssa in the marching band. While there, though, my mom will notice Liv’s classmates and how mature they are. These kids are running around, nowhere near their parents, helping with water for the football players, helping with littler kids, etc. And my mom sees what Olivia is not doing.

I don’t take Liv to these games because she’d hate it. She’d be insanely bored and would drive me nuts asking over and over when we were going to leave. She doesn’t want to run around with her peers, playing catch with a small football, watching the cheerleaders with the idea that she might someday be one of them. She doesn’t want to go just to see and be seen. She doesn’t care about that stuff and I’m okay with that.

I see Olivia for who she is. I try to celebrate her joy, he laughter, her very life. I can’t let myself fret over what she’s not doing. That’s not fair to her or to me. It will just steal the fun of everyday life with my littlest sweetheart. How is that fair to anyone?

Monday, September 17, 2018

I Blame the Salt

I threw a mini tantrum in the shampoo aisle of Walmart this weekend. My tantrum then extended from the shampoo aisle to the register where I vented to the poor woman who was just trying to do her job.

See, I hate buying water softener salt. I hate trying to remember to pay for it at the register, I hate lifting the heavy-ass bags from the skid into my cart, I hate lifting them from the cart into my bag. I hate it. I hate everything about it.

Guess what Tom wanted me to buy at Walmart this past weekend?

Shoes. And water softener salt.

The shoes are bad enough. But having to buy the damned salt pisses me right off.

I wonder if he’s forgotten that Walmart lets men shop. They let them buy crap.

No, he’s evidently forgotten.

So there I was, already annoyed because I was in Walmart on a Saturday afternoon and people in Walmart on a Saturday afternoon are insane. They’re insane and stupid, which means I’m usually raging by the time I get out of there.

We were in the shampoo aisle because apparently, Alyssa needs seven thousands bottles of shampoo in her shower at all times. And her hair is delicate and she needs to try new shampoos constantly to try and find the right combination of smoothing formula that won’t make her hair feel greasy. Ugh.

We were almost done but I’d suddenly remember that Tom had added to my list and I hadn’t read beyond the first item, which was size 11 wide shoes. Yes, he has me buy his shoes because he only ever wears black, size 11 wide shoes. My eyes were rolling right out of my head but I wasn’t stomping my foot…not yet.

I pulled the list out of my purse and read beyond the shoes.

Water softener salt, two bags, clean and protect.

I was instantly enraged. I hissed, “Water softener salt! I HATE buying softener salt.” Then, because I’m all mature and stuff, I stomped my foot. If I could have gotten away with it, I probably would have thrown myself to the floor and wailed.

I was so furious I could barely see straight. Olivia was in the middle of one of her never ending stories about Mush Mush and Katherine and some fingernail saga and I had to say, as calmly as I could muster, “Liv, I’m so mad right now, I can’t listen to your story.”

And guess what? She shut right up. I’m pretty sure she knew I wasn’t mad at her, but she seemed to sense my rage and decided the story could wait. There is always another Mush Mush and Katherine story.

When we got to the register, after going back to the shoes and selecting a pair of size 11 wide, the nice lady running register 7 greeted me and asked me how I was doing.

“Fine,” I said as pleasantly as I could. And before I could stop myself, I muttered to her, “I’m just mad at my husband because he wants me to buy water softener salt and I hate buying water softener salt.”

She started to pull out her salt cheat-sheet and I stopped her. “Oh, I don’t want to pay for it with this,” indicating the groceries on the belt. “No, it needs to go with those shoes at the end. Because heaven forbid he buy his own shoes.”

Yes, I said that. To a stranger. Poor lady. To her credit, she didn’t pause in the scanning of my groceries. Heck, she probably sped up just to bet me and my anger out of her space.

Once we were done with paying for both the groceries and the shoes and salt, I apologized to the cashier, “I’m so sorry for my attitude.”

She smiled and said, “It’s no problem, I think most of us women get it.”

I returned her smile and then headed off to heave the freaking salt into the extra cart Alyssa had fetched while I was checking out.

Lyss lifted one bag of salt into the cart and I got the other. When we got to the car, she offered to get them out of the cart but I was in total martyr mode and gently (seriously, I was gentle, I wasn’t mad at her!) suggested she just get in the car.

The entire drive home I fumed. I told myself that I actually hoped Tom wasn’t home so I could schlep the damned salt to the basement and fall and break my neck because that would sure teach him, wouldn’t it?

I know, I’m so very mature.

When we got home, he was there to he’s the one who dragged the salt from the car to the garage floor and then later took it to the basement. No broken neck for me, sigh.

He asked me how I was and I told him I was having a tough day. I was annoyed because people in town are stupid. I hadn’t mentioned the salt yet, but give me time, it was early in the day.

We put the groceries away and when I went to the bathroom, I noticed how hideous my hair looked. It was truly tragic. That pushed my mood from irritated all the way to maudlin. I was a wreck.

Tom asked again how I was. I told him I wasn’t very happy. I told him about my horrible hair, though why I needed to was beyond me, I mean, the man was looking right at me.

He said it was fine. He’s blind and maybe a little dim.

I told him it wasn’t fine, it was awful and while I know how lucky I am to even have hair, I reserve the right to hate it at times. And this was one of those times.

Then, in a moment of pure honestly, I admitted that part of the reason my day was so very awful was because I’d had to get softener salt.

To give him credit, Tom looked just enough abashed to make me feel better. I hadn’t wanted to say anything because I know I was being stupid and petty and immature. I didn’t care, I don’t want to EVER have to buy water softener salt again. He was going to his brother’s the very next day. He has to drive past all the places the sell salt on his way. He could have taken ten minutes out of his flipping day to buy the salt himself. I don’t care if I was already IN Walmart, I didn’t want to get the salt.

I ended up going to my room, turning on the fan, taking off my pants (TMI?) and laying down for about an hour and a half. I’d left my phone in the living room and closed the bedroom door. I dozed a bit but mostly, I rested, trying to reset my mood.

It helped a little, thought my hair continues to be horrendous. But I knew a little nap wasn’t going fix that. Time is what that’s going to take.

I don’t know if my little moodiness will get me out of buying softener salt ever again, but I can certainly hope. Maybe next time I should try using my words instead of stomping my foot in the shampoo aisle, though.

For what it’s worth, I did apologize to both Lyss and Liv for all the horrible things I said about their dad while in Walmart and in the car on the way home. And after I apologized for the words I’d said, I apologized for the things I was still thinking.

I like to think I’m a work in progress.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Teenage Love

Remember when you first met your significant other? How new and wonder that person was? Remember how you wanted to spend every waking moment with them? How you counted down the hours and minutes until you could be with them again?

Yeah, me neither.

But we’re in the throes of that right now with teenage love.

Bless their hearts but I’m so over it.

I’m over her asking to go somewhere every single day, or to have someone (you know about whom I am speaking) over to our house.

This week has been rough for all of us.

But FAIR WEEK is the constant excuse for the constant asking if she can go out and stay out later than we usually allow on school nights.

There haven’t been any tears but that’s probably because Tom and I are pushovers and we’ve given in on just about everything. So yeah, this frustration is probably our fault but that doesn’t make it much easier to swallow.

After her being late two nights in a row, she still asked to go to an event on Wednesday. Fine, whatever, but DON’T BE LATE. I even told her that if she thought she was going to be late, she needed to call me and I would come get her to avoid the stress of her being late.

She was right on time. As in, she was supposed to be home at 9:30 and she walked in the door as exactly 9:30. Sigh.

Tom and I agreed to the event on Wednesday with the stipulation that she wasn’t doing anything, going anywhere, etc. on Thursday.

Thursday morning dawned. She rolled out of bed at 6:45, arrived down for breakfast at 7:00. At 7:10, as she was heading back upstairs she asked all casual-like, “I know you told me that if I went last night I couldn’t go anywhere tonight but N has to be at the fairgrounds at 6:00 so can I hang out with her until 5:45?”

I didn’t say anything. I was not this kind of teenager, who asked and asked and asked for more. I didn’t push mom.

Let me insert here that she’s a good kid. She’s mostly kind and sort of helpful. She might vacuum once a week, if I ask her to do so. She’ll do the dishes when we tell her. She isn’t mean to her sister. She gets good grades but those come easily for her and so I can’t say she works hard for them. She’s talented, she’s smart, she’s mostly sweet. But she’s also a teenager and teens are very self-centered. I won’t say she’s selfish, but she definitely wants what she wants when she wants it.

Tom finally replied to her question. He had something going that afternoon that meant he needed Lyss at home to help with Liv if he had to leave. We rarely leave the girls home alone but as she often points out, Alyssa is fifteen years old. She’s perfectly capable of being home alone with her eleven year old sister for a couple of hours if necessary.

She took the news well that we needed her to be at home. In fact, she rolled with it and immediately suggested, “Then can N come over here until 5:45?”

She’s a sly one, that girl. I mean, why not ask? If she doesn’t ask, we definitely won’t offer the option and that’s as good at not seeing her girlfriend for a whole twelve hours until the next school day. Heaven forbid!

We gave in, AGAIN, and told her it was fine. I mean, what does it harm?

I did tell Olivia that she is babysitting her sister as much as her sister is babysitting her. I told her to be as annoying as she could and that if A and N went upstairs, she (O) should definitely follow them and not give them a moment of peace. I mean, she’s the little sister, that’s kind of her job, right?

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t nice of me to give Liv those instructions but this past week I’m finding parenting a teenager to be a lot of work and I’m tired. I’m so very tired. I’m tired of watching for headlights each night, I’m tired of staying up later than I want because she’s not home when she’s supposed to be home. I’m tired of watching the clock. I’m tired of having to even think about whether she can go somewhere and when she should be home versus when she WILL be home. Like I said, I’m tired.

Are these the years that make us glad when they graduate and move out? Do they get like this so we will push them out of the nest rather than hold tightly to them and crush their independent spirits?

I don’t know but I think maybe. Maybe.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Building Endurance

So I’ve completed four weeks at my new job.

The first week, I was tired. So tired. So very, very tired. I went to be each night at 9 and slept until 6, not even getting up in the middle of the night to pee. I’m 47 and have had two kids, that’s saying something.

My back ached that first week at work no matter what I was doing. I could have been sitting down at the computer, or standing up filing, or stuffing envelopes. It didn’t matter, I hurt. I ached because some of my muscles weren’t used to not sitting in a recliner for hours at a time.

You know the scientific saying about inertia? The one that says that objects in motion stay in motion, blah blah blah?

Yeah, that one. Well, while I was at rest, I wanted to stay at rest.

But I’m building endurance. I’m getting stronger.

I can stay up until at 10 most week nights. I still sleep pretty much through the night but I’m not so tired I can’t keep my eyes open past 9pm.

My body doesn’t hurt like it did that first week. I’m already stronger. I’m used to sitting in a regular chair or being on my feet.

If my old job hadn’t been eliminated (it was sent to England…hip hip cheerio) I would have worked through chemo and radiation. I would have kept moving and stayed strong. Sure, I’m glad I got to spend the summer with my girls but there’s definitely something to be said for staying in motion.

I’m so grateful for this new job, this new lease on life. I’m still tired sometimes but I know that I’ll keep getting stronger, keep building endurance and keep living. That’s the whole point, right?