Safety and Security Notice:

I never include last names or specific locations here, for the safety of our children. If you or your child is a friend of me or mine, and you approve a first name and photo being posted as appropriate, please click this link to email me with written permission. Thank you

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Not So Black Friday!

Also, Not a Cancer Post!™

I thought that as a service to the country of the United States of America, I'd throw some homegrown products at the Internet at see what sticks. The listings below are from some of my favorite people, and I'm happy to offer them up for your approval (with their approval):

MiniatureMonkeyCreations is the brainchild and hard work of my friend Ann. Lots of these are super cute, but I think the owl and the elephant and the dreidel are especially darling. My favorite, however, are these Crocheted Holiday Lights. How cute are they?

For those of you in Seattle (or who miss Seattle while living elsewhere, or who just love the colors blue and green), we bring you Sharon's Seahawks Prayer Candles. Because honestly, around here Seahawks is a religion. Our state religion, mandated by the Twelfth Man, and reinforced by random shopkeepers and school districts. And Sharon and her fun little prayer candles.

Pris has been my friend for... well, I've lost track. It was before Abby was born though, which means at least thirteen years, and probably closer to fifteen or sixteen. Or even more. She makes some lovely jewelry over at the Prairie Parlor, and she can work on commission too.

So, ladies and gents, there you have it! A pretty and fun selection of holiday goodies. And you don't have to brave the (often evil) holiday shopping crowds!

Monday, November 23, 2015


No, I am not thankful for cancer. That would be stupid.

But given its presence in our lives, there are many things I am thankful for. Things petty and things portentous. Personal, professional, and political things.

I am thankful that...

...Laston is responding to treatment.

...People have respected our wishes to keep their mouths shut on the topic of alternative therapies (although many have suggested some in addition to chemo, and I'm thankful for that, too).

...The kids have adults, both family and friends (and teachers, and school counselors, and drama coaches, and stage managers, and Girl Scout leaders, and... you get the picture) to support them if they need to talk or whatever, with someone who's not intimately involved with the family crisis.

...We have decent medical insurance including five paid counseling sessions; although it's still expensive out of pocket, at least it's not insurmountable. And that my union was instrumental in that (thanks, CWA!). And that my boss, and her boss, and her boss are not shy about saying heck, yeah, use the counseling! Just do it! (and no, I don't work for Nike)

...FMLA exists.

...The people in my life seem to understand that I am a tiny bit touchier than usual due to stress. Most of them, anyway.

...My counselor rocks... and he thinks I pretty much rock too.

...I finally finished this damn 750 749-piece puzzle.

...My employer doesn't mind me doing puzzles between calls.

...I live in a state where compassion for people in need trumps race and religion and unreasoning fear... and even our governor says so.

...Our local school district is one of the best and most diverse in the state.

...Intermittent windshield wipers are a thing.

...My workplace honestly does not care about race, religion, gender identity, or a host of other things that the world at large seems to think are huge big deals. As long as you can get there on time, do the job, follow the rules, and show general human decency, you could be a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater and that would be okay with them (well, maybe not the people-eating; there's that basic human decency thing).

...That friends and family and bare acquaintances just kind of want to help. And they're all so nice about it.

Anyway, yeah, much of life sucks right now; the usual household worries are magnified a bazillion-fold.

But we still do have a lot to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Little Children Understand

I can say that with a fair bit of accuracy, just from what I've seen tonight.

In the elementary school gym, right under an enormous sign that says, "I WILL NOT BULLY AND I WILL NOT ALLOW BULLYING," there was a Culture Faire. Booths were set up with fun facts (and food samples!) from some of the various countries represented by children in our school. There are children there from all over the U.S., as well as Italy, Mexico, Japan, Korea, India, Bangladesh, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Brazil, and Canada.

And those are just the ones with booths representing them.

The Primary Grades Choir (why we were there; Lizzy is in the PGC) sang three songs - from different countries - and then one of the older kids' groups did three more. From three more different countries. Then there was piped in music for the kids to dance and play to, with everything from tribal chants to Gangnam Style, while we learned about the cultures and tried their food and toys and crafts (like origami from Japan and tortilla making from Mexico and henna tattoos from India) and they got out the dress-up chest with a lot of different hats for the kids to try on and take pix in front of the world map.

And these kids get it.

Lizzy is eight, and is more the book-learning and madcap-dashing-about type than the social one (the social one would be Abby). But during the course of the hour and a half we were there, I saw her playing or chatting with a girl from  China, a girl from Bangladesh, a couple of Mexican kids she knows, and the girl whose mom was in charge of the Italy booth.

That last may have had more to do with the presence of Nutella, but it still counts.

If I had had my camera ready, at the time, I could have gotten that lovely shot of a little girl in a kimono dancing to Gangnam Style with the child in full-on Bangladeshi costume, and a small boy in Indian clothes darting in and out between them..

It was marvelous.

And if a bunch of five- to twelve-year-olds can get along that well, and their parents and teachers can, why can't the rest?

Multiculturalism is a Good Thing.

I wish more (adult) people understood that.

 Because really?

We could all learn a little something from the kids.

Don't you think?

Monday, November 16, 2015


This is it, folks, the long haul. We are in it.

I wrote last week about how counseling is helping me, and it is.

But I still find myself stressed to the max, as we used to say (back in my day, sonny). Some of these stressors are large and some are so small as to be petty annoyances. And some are actually really sweet but also sad. And when every little thing sets you off (a couple weeks ago I kind of lost it when a bag of potato chips got stuck in the vending machine) because of stress or adrenaline or whatever, the big ones can bring you (figuratively in my case) to your knees.

I felt as badly as anyone else when I heard about the Paris terrorist attacks. And then came the realization - and the guilt - that I didn't really notice all this shit going on until it was a city I know, if only by reputation and in fiction. And then to understand that some of my own people - that is to say, Americans - are sure that refugees will have terrorists among them (some even assume any "different" person is a terrorist; how the hell do these people justify Bobby Jindal?) and are refusing to help them? I don't know why I'm surprised that there is a certain faction of people like this; goodness knows we've seen it often enough, with people wanting literal walls up and down the Rio Grande.

So I feel guilty, that issues in Lebanon and Syria and others made no real impression on me other than the gee-that's-too-bad sort of way when I hear things in passing. And the added guilt that the illness of one man (hi, honey!), along with everything else going on here locally with (lack of) jobs on Laston's part, and kids and the like, tends to make me ignore such things as refugees pouring out of the Middle East until the media slaps me in the face with it.

Aside: Please, please don't turn the posts replying to this into a political discussion of whether we should let Syrian refugees into the US; I'll delete them if I have to, because I am just not in the fucking mood.

Even my own run-on and/or incomplete sentences are making me crazy at the moment. Not to mention my foul-mouthed (foul-fingered?) typing. But really. Just don't. Please.

I can manage to hold it together when needed though. Lizzy had a meltdown tonight because the rub-on tattoo that was the last thing she got from her first-grade teacher at the end of the school year didn't last when she put it on her tummy (she pulled her shirt back down before it was dry). When you are eight and your life is in a bit of upheaval, these things are important. So I did not melt down with her; instead I helped her write an email to said teacher.

But I did tear up when I came home to the laundry all folded. Laston may not be entirely sure which clothes belong to whom (partly because Lizzy wears a Girls' Medium and Abby wears a Ladies' Medium), but he folded them and stacked them in neat little piles and now I'm misting up again because it was so unexpected.

Also, I cried when Bindi Irwin did a retrospective thing about her dad on Dancing With the Stars tonight.

I'm not the only one having the over-sensitivity issue either. Laston needs a ride to chemo tomorrow, so he sent my mom a text that started with "Cheryl, I need you..."

That was all she saw on the popup that happens when you get a new SMS. And she panicked, just a little, wondering why he needed her, and where the hell I was, and what if we all needed her, in the 1.2 seconds it took to open the text.

Like you do when you're a mom.

And having written all this out, I feel better. Which is the point.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Counseling, New Normal, and Work (oh my)

Not this Oh My.

And it's not really work as such. Work is fine. I love my job, my company, and my union.

It more the lack of work for Laston, because his waking schedule is so wonky while on chemotherapy. (Dear prospective employers, he's on my medical insurance; he's a good employment risk. Take my husband, please).

So here's the thing. He's on unemployment, he wants to work, and he even feels up to it most of the time. But every other Tuesday he has to be out for chemo treatments, the Wednesday and Thursday following he's generally okay (except that he has to have the pump thing removed on the Thursday), and then he passes out from sheer chemo-induced fatigue at unpredictable intervals for the next three days.

If he forces himself to stay awake and interact with people for more than one of those three days, he feels like crap on the Monday following.

As an example, last chemo week he was fine (albeit unable to drive) during and after the chemo, fine Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (with a nap on Friday and much time with the kids). He interacted with all three kids and took Leanna to his makerspace on Saturday (also fine), and had a friend and the friend's toddler over on Sunday (best friends ever; brought him homemade candied ginger and ginger syrup, and provided the gift I spoke of here).

Each of these activities is fine. All these activities in one weekend made Laston feel like he'd been  run over by a truck all day Monday.

So what he really needs is a job where he can interact with people Monday - Monday one week, take a day off for chemo, work part time for two days, then have three days off to rest. Or work from home on his own schedule, with occasional forays into the outside world to have people time, because although he is an introvert in many ways, he also finds himself to be depressed without human interaction, given his illness.

Anyone have a (legitimate only, please) work-from-home or own-schedule job? He's got major skills in ticket triage, high-end troubleshooting, telecommunications NOC, and technical writing. He's also qualified as a K-12 teacher and he can write a decent novella or an excellent short story, but the former is seriously germ-ridden and the latter has proven to be a) less than lucrative and b) difficult to do whilst depressed and lacking inspiration.

All right, that takes care of the Work and New Normal topics; let's tackle the counseling.

I was in counseling as a teen, due to family issues that manifested themselves in school issues, and I had forgotten how nice it is to just talk out the day to day crap with someone who a) is in your corner, b) has no skin in your game, and c) has the education to make suggestions that might help you. My counselor is not a psychiatrist and so can't prescribe, but he is free to mention things like half a benadryl to turn off the what-ifs long enough for me to sleep at night without making me so drowsy as to be non-functional the next day.

That worked really well, and I'm happy to report that it does not affect larger doses of benadryl and their effect on me; dammit, those quesadillas and that ice cream? They were worth the allergic response. And the sleepiness this morning because of the full dose of benadryl.

And let's face it, my day-to-day stress/worry/fretting needs hashing out with someone sympathetic but not necessarily a friend or family member. At least at the moment. I mean, I overeat as it is, and I don't sleep (or didn't before the half-benadryl) and that was before the New Normal. Some of this has its roots in issues experienced long before I even met Laston. Like decades before. And no, Dr Freud, it's not my mother (at least not primarily, right, Mom?).

In any case, there's a lot of relief to be had in talking to someone who understands but can remain objective-yet-caring.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


I haven't felt very competent lately, for obvious reasons. When a situation is completely out of your control - or anyone's - competence is pretty far down the list.

It helped last week when the counselor told me I was doing my most important job - parenting - well. Although that feeling was mitigated somewhat by Miz Liz having a really rough week at school. She's more affected by what's going on around here than she lets on. Or maybe more than she can articulate. But we worked it out with her teacher, by adjusting bedtime and the like. A rested child is a happy child.

And then today? Today I did something I've never done before, and I did it well.

I changed a headlight on my car.

Now, this may not seem like a big deal. But let's just say that my mechanical skill is pretty much limited to hanging pictures on the wall, and even then I tend to have to tweak the positioning.

But I did it, allbymyownself. I went to the store and used the little computer to determine which light I needed (that's more my thing; I'm more of a software kinda gall). I popped my hood, turned the little gasket, pulled out the old bulb, popped in the new one, turned the gasket the other way, and did what we in tech support call Testing the Resolution (yeah, turned on the headlights).

So I feel competent today.

And it feels damn good.