Saturday, July 9, 2016

As any of you who are still checking this have noticed, I haven’t posted anything in 6 months.

Greetings All,

As any of you who are still checking this have noticed, I haven’t posted anything in 6 months. 


I got a message this week from the father of a former student, and it was a sincere request to know how my family is doing.  The honest to goodness answer is….all over the place.  From the outside, we are doing great.  Anya reads so much on a daily basis that it’s an honest to goodness problem for us, in that she’s avoiding doing all the things that she’s supposed to be doing to contribute to the house.  Shelley is slowly moving back into the realm of work, working on a contract basis for the director of her agency.   I am doing just fine at work, and consistently being recognized as a teacher of quality in my district.  We’re all good, honestly.

It’s so strange, however, about the way that cancer has hallowed out a place in our heads, in our hearts, and in our lives.  I think of how a tumor grows, (pardon my lack of actual medical knowledge in the comment that follows.  I am not a doctor, and have no actual medical knowledge beyond that which I have gleaned from random internet sources) in that it sucks the blood and energy and life force out of the organs around it, for its own purposes.  When a tumor is cut out, it leaves this gap, this void.  I imagine that void creates its own problems that need to be dealt with, as Amie’s void has created for us.

That void is pretty insidious though.  For Anya, it manifests in a pretty consistent desire to be perfect…She reacts so harshly to criticism of any kind, such as redirecting her to her daily chores when she sneaks away to read.  For Shelley, I see her just dwelling in this state of loneliness.  Lacking any concrete way to connect that “normal” people have, she spends a lot of time with Anya and I, and never really gets to escape our space.  For me, I am restless.  I’m like a shark most days, doing whatever it is that I need to do to turn off my churning brain.

I’m still running (registered for the Crim and the Free Press ½ Marathon) a lot, and playing video games, and reading Reddit, and reading Slate, and reading books, and playing Magic: The Gathering, and, and, and.  I’ve always been restless, and I’ve always needed more stimulation in my daily activities than most…but it’s been distilled down so much worse than ever since Amie died.  It’s not a good thing, and I know I need to be able to find peace with the silence, with the quiet, with the acceptance of a calm moment, but it’s not somewhere that I’m at right now.  Will I ever be?  Who knows.

I am re-reading (for the 3rd time? 4th Time?) Neil Gaiman’s American Gods right now.  I had no intention of re-reading it, but my niece Allyssa wanted to read it, and well…it was there (kindle version, digital), and I read a few pages and fell back into it.  I was reading this morning and came across this line in the book:

“There are stories that are true, in which each individual’s tale is unique and tragic, and the worst of the tragedy is that we have heard it before, and we cannot allow ourselves to feel it too deeply.”

This passage spoke to me, and forced me to stop reading right there.  It was a perfect way to describe where I’m at right now.  I have felt numb for some time, in regards to the problems that are facing so many others in my circles.  A good friend of mine’s chronic illness has slipped another few notches towards the really “not good”, and another’s wife received a cancer diagnosis that is the pinnacle of “not good”.  That’s not even approaching the horror of the national news that is Orlando, and Dallas, and, and, and.  But I’ve been really unable to open myself to help them, or even talk about it.

I see people’s gaping chasms of pain and awfulness, fully aware of how terrible they are for them, and can’t engage with them right now. I know this makes me a tad bit of a coward, as I have experiences that might be able to help, might be able to at least let them know that they aren’t alone.  But that same void inside of me is just….waiting to leap out and swallow anything it can get its hands on, and I just won’t let it.

I was out for a long run this morning and stopped by Amie’s grave.  I don’t go there that much, compared to Shelley, as I know that she’s not “there”.  But it’s a gorgeous spot, and easily in the path of the nicest run in Howell, and well, it’s where she’s summoned to memory in the easiest way.  People have left her all sorts of things at her grave; stones, toys, flowers, art, and even a small concrete Weeping Buddha.  I was standing there, taking a break and sweating profusely as is my habit, and a wave of unfairness overcame me.  I usually don’t think about how grossly unfair it is that we had three pregnancies, and now have one kid.  (an incredibly awesome kid!)  But it did, and I let it wash over me, and then kept running. 

But I think about the quote above, and how guarded I am with my emotions these days, protecting myself from them, preventing them from tearing me up.  Is that part of being a guy, that process where we don’t want to let ourselves feel, or just the place that I’ve built for myself? 

Long run, it’s not the person I want to be.  It’s not going to help me be a better teacher, or a good friend.  But it’s where I am now.

So, at the end of all this rumination, I’d like to put forth (again) that we’re doing just fine.  Cracked, in some ways, but not broken, and not defeated in the least.

With all of that, a few pictures:

Anya continues to be our own Luna Lovegood (for those of you in the potterverse).  I asked her what this costume was, and she just said it looked good to her, and asked to have her picture taken.

Anya turned 9 in June, and I just love this picture.  So happy.  

Anya reads a lot.  A LOT.  She wanted a "reading" birthday party.  I was scared.  Most people do not read as much as her.

But Shelley and Anya worked out a great plan, and it was a total success.

These are edible books made of fondant (I'm told that's a sort of frosting).  I was beyond impressed with these.  In awe, more like it...

I know this pains some of my friends who went to MSU with me.  We took these for a photo collage for Allyssa's graduation from HS.  It's the only close up family pic I could find.

I made the girls stop the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum on the way to our roadtrip to Arkansas.  It was a great experience, and they even enjoyed it too!  Look how happy Anya is!

(Pardon my hairy legs, please)  This is Canvas.  She's the new addition to our family.

Amie always wanted a kitty.  We posted about it often.  
She couldn't have one, because of the immune system issues.  

It took us a while, and we finally got to the point where we were ready to welcome some new life into our home, and Canvas arrived a few weeks ago.  

She's totally bitey, and in attack mode right now, but every once in a while, she does slow down and become the cuddliest kitten you'd ever want.

I guess, to me, she represents the healing process, and the welcoming of the unknown into your life.  She's new, and she's wild, and she's changing the dynamic of what it means to be us.  

But, I guess that's what living life is, to a small extent, yes?  
Welcoming the glorious unknown into your life to see what it brings?

Hope all is well for each and every one of you.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

31: Thankful for so, so many things...

Greetings All,

For those of you who follow me here, but not on Facebook, it’s been a while.

About 5 weeks ago, on Christmas Day, I started a thankfulness project, to help kickstart my waning thankfulness/optimism/cheerfulness and decrease the negativity/cranky in my  life.  The wonderful and creative Jennifer Garland came up with a list of possible names for the project, and I chose #thankynotcranky.  It’s been a fun 5 weeks, and several others joined in as well.  J

I wasn’t sure how long I was going to ride the #thankynotcranky train, but thinking this is going to be my last formal post, #31.  It gives me a “month” of posts in just over 5 weeks, and I think that’s just about right.  Hell, it worked well enough to get me out of the house, away from my video games (Divinity: Original Sin Extended Edition), and using my wordsmithery to process….  So yeah, a lot more thanky, a lot less cranky.

Before I wrap up my #thankynotcranky project, I wanted to riff on a few things that have been bouncing around my brain like a superball the last few months.

Firstly, I love words.  LOVE.  I love new words, precise words, the correct spelling of words, and all things in between.  If I wasn’t as lazy as I am, I’d know a few languages too, because then I’d know more words.  Anyway, I always strive to use the correct word in any given situation…correct in context, syntax, grammar, and the whole shebang.

With all of that being said, when I refer to my family, do I refer to my family as “kid” or “kids”?

For example: 
Yeah, that sounds like a something my kids would love!
Yeah, that sounds like something my kid would love!

When I speak in the past tense, I can easily use kids.  When I speak about the future, I feel like I’m lying, or faking, or in some state of denial when I say “kids”.  I do not any longer have “kids”, I have a “kid”. 

But then again, I would never want to deny the awesomeness of having Amelie for the time that we had her with us, and if anyone ever thought that I was doing so, it would wound my soul.  She was a great kid, and she was my bud, and nothing will ever change that.

I just sounds so damned weird when I am speaking about something and reply with kids…  but then again not to use kids seems just as wrong.   I know, something most people don’t care about, but well, it feels real, so that means it is.

I’m a full page into writing, so I guess I ought to give a bit about “how are things? How is Shelley? How is Anya?” (as my Dad would ask).  Things are as good as they can be.  That’s about the best I can say.

The best way I can say to describe it is to describe the weekend we just had.  Anya was away at Special Days camp (more later, and in many previous blogs).  She left Friday afternoon and returned today at 2:15p.  We had talked sporadically about doing a bunch of different stuff, but I knew, deep down, that if we were going to do anything, it needed to be me that was the propulsion system for that adventure.

There’s nothing wrong, but there’s also this empty spot.  That spot is the sum total of: all the joy of Amie, all the caring for Amie, all the 2nd kid stuff you have to do, all the hospital visits, all the cancer anxieties, all the car rides to Mott, all of it.  That empty spot (I don’t want to say hole, because that’s inherently negative) is just there.  It’s slowly being chipped away to make it smaller, and getting filled in here and there with new passions and activities….but it’s there….and some days, the vacuum of empty pulls the energy in from other places and just makes it too hard to move past what you do to survive. 

So, we hung out this weekend, watched a bunch of stuff, had some good food out, and made some good meals in.  We enjoyed each other’s company, parallel played for a while, and then went and got Anya.  Was it exciting? No.  Was it alright? Yes.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Special Days camp.  Anya went (again, 4th year!) to winter camp for Special Days, <> and once again it was the shining star of her winter.  I wish (at times) I could jump into her head to see what exactly she loves about it so much, but she just loves it so much.  When Amie died, we asked that people send donations in lieu of flowers to that organization.  What they do, simply put, is amazing.

With all of the above being said, I wanted to give one last blast of #thankynotcranky.  For my 31st post, I want to be thankful for:

Jennifer Overholt – A student who I’ve sung the praises of way too much on this blog, but who just returned from volunteering at Special Days camp, again.  She goes there because she, as a soon-to-be-nurse, knows that the kids there deserve normalcy as much as any other kid, and the work that needs to be done to ensure that normal is far more than most people would imagine.  Thanks for doing that work, Jen, and to do it for free.

Special Days Camp – You give my daughter a week each summer, and a weekend each winter, where she can run around and be free from all the anxieties, fears, grief, and dashed expectations of her parents.  You do it with minimal financial costs from the parents, and have staff like Stan who so desperately care for my kid (kids?) that I am brought to tears each time I see you.

Kim (head custodian at McBride) – I have never seen a person work as hard as you do to keep our aging building looking as good as it does, each and every day.  I have never seen you sitting.  I have never seen you talking on your cell phone.  I have never seen you hiding from work.  I have only seen you doing the small, detail oriented things that make things sparkle, and are nearly never noticed.

People who send anonymous gifts – (this is NOT a plea for such a thing, just a blanket thanks, as we cannot send proper thank you cards!)  For the people who have sent anonymous gifts to my family over the past 3.5 years…thank you from the bottom of my heart.  From the bag that someone made with the cat embroidery on it and the girl’s pictures, to the blankets for each of us, to the purple tulips that arrived last week…  we appreciate all of them.  The fact that people are still thinking about Amie a year after her death makes us smile, and reminds us that the power of her story reached way beyond family and friends, and snaked its way out into many of your lives.  Thank you.  Deeply.

With that said, I’ll wrap it up and share a few pictures:

This is Anya with Stan, the saintly gentleman who takes care of Anya year after year on the bus to Special Days.  What a wonderful, amazing team.  This was leaving for Anya's first camp ever, when she was 5 (according to my limited researching).

This is Anya returning from that camp.  Such good sister-friends.

Here is us sending Anya off to her 4th camp.  Still willing to take a picture with us, so that's a win!  :)

...and finally, our mantel, as we walk the last 13 days until the 1st anniversary of Amie's death.

The world is a sadder, less-brilliant, and less sorted place without you, m'darling.  But know that the people you touched with your jokes, your hugs, your shoulder rides, and your squeezes have not forgotten you one iota.  You're a good kid, Amie, and we miss you more than you will ever understand.

Rest well, Ams.