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Monday, November 30, 2015

A Wild Week...

...and it's only Monday.

But really, because last week was a holiday, it always makes me feel like the week starts on Saturday, so by that POV, it's Wednesday night!

So Thursday we did the usual sort of Thanksgiving-y things with the family. Laston's on the wagon for obvious reasons, so I had a couple drinks, which I rarely do. And of course we all ate ridiculous amounts of food, because Thanksgiving. It is a harvest celebration after all. That's just how it works. Even Laston ate a ton, and he hasn't had a lot of appetite. More on that later.

Lizzy (all eight years of her) told me she made the sweet potato pie. I was skeptical, assuming that she had helped my mom, but no, actually Mom tells me Lizzy really did do most of it; she found the recipe and mixed and all that. Mom bought the ingredients, ran the oven (Lizzy is only eight), and supervised.

That's kind of amazing.

I was really pleased with this pic I managed of the two of them just before we left the house on Thanksgiving. I think it's quite indicative of their respective personalities; the fresh-faced Abby smiling for the camera and trying to accommodate her sister's shorter height, and Lizzy's little sidewise smirk that makes you wonder what's going on in her brain.

A much better pic (and one I'm told should be used in Christmas cards, which I would do if I sent Christmas cards, which I do not. Consider this post an early Christmas card. It's okay, because Thanksgiving is over) is this one, taken after the first (of three!!) shows they did at Studio East on Saturday. That they do this again on the 6th, 13th, and 19th (and Cast B does it the alternate weekend days) at three shows a day... well, that's pretty dang amazing too. I can't even imagine how exhausted the adults who do this five days a week plus weekend performances must be.

Of course, with all the dancing, I imagine they're in a lot better shape than I am anyway. As evidenced by the asthma attack I had at work when they started tweaking the new HVAC system (I think that's what the saws and hammering sounds was about). And I was just sitting at my desk.

Amusing story from today: I had a customer who mentioned he has cancer (why it's imperative that his phone worked reliably), and I expressed my sympathy and said my husband does too. This customer went on to say that the chemo itself was not the most annoying part; it was more the "feeling like a pregnant lady."

That's when I started laughing.

Because in the last month, Laston has manifested the following symptoms commonly associated with pregnancy: early morning nausea, severe fatigue, intestinal upset (duh, it's colon cancer), and food cravings. It was beets for a while (they're good for liver function and the body knows), then all fall root veggies, clams (iron, probably, and maybe iodine), and this last one was black licorice.

With all the stops at the store, I suspect I have evened out the score from the Eternal Quest for Otter Pops in Early Spring I sent him on while pregnant with Lizzy nearly nine years ago.

He's doing pretty well as far as we know on the chemo (he goes in for a treatment on Tuesday and we will see what the tests are showing; it's time for them to take a look at how he is responding and adjust accordingly.

And if that goes well, all we need is for him to get a good job, or a Christmas Miracle, whichever comes first.





Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Other Side of Thanksgiving

I find myself disturbed by this holiday in a way I wasn't before. Possibly it's all those classes for the Intercultural Communications degree. Maybe it's the sheer number of friends of various cultures I have and therefore my recent comprehension of history being written by the victors (I understood it intellectually before but I did not really grok). Possibly it's all the culture clash going on in the world just now.

Most likely it's all three, with a side of public schools' and private preschools' take on the topic.

Abby (in seventh grade) says that they learned about how the Natives helped out and then the Pilgrims gave them diseases and things (I imagine this was in fourth or fifth grade; out here in Salish country the public school does a lot of Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea and Oregon Trail stuff. They try to be fair).

Lizzy, four years ago.
Miz Liz has learned that Native Americans got sick from Pilgrims and that the Pilgrims took over the Natives' lands. She got this from bits and pieces from preschool and the Magic Treehouse series of books.

You'll notice if you click that link that the negative side of Thanksgiving was not discussed back then, but Lizzy has picked it up anyway. This could be from friends and family (Abby was very vocal  on the topic during that fourth-grade year). And it could be from preschool things done at a time other than November; it was a very good preschool.

I tend to celebrate Thanksgiving in the same secular spirit (yes, I know it's an oxymoron) as I do Halloween or Christmas or Easter. To me it's a harvest festival, no more and no less.

Am I thankful? Certainly, and for several reasons. Not the least of which is having been born in a place that at its best tries to be fair... though it fails more often than not.

But that doesn't mean I'm not aware of the unwilling sacrifices made.




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

Thankful

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

Distress

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

Competence

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.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Coping

CAUTION: Major overuse of the word "coping" in this post. Links to everydamnthing. You have been warned.

Everyone asks how we're coping, and I don't usually know how to answer. So I will attempt it here. In descending order by age.

Laston seems to be coping pretty well; the scientific aspect has taken over to some extent, and medical SCIENCE (yes, it must be all caps) is interesting. The fact that he has his own USB port is part of this, as well as cataloging his symptoms (sometimes at length and out loud) and then categorizing them. Is it a cancer symptom or a chemo side effect? How does he feel, what does the doctor say, and (this is the bad one) how does the Internet feel about it? Inquiring minds...

It doesn't feel like I'm coping (mostly because I can't sleep, which makes me short on patience and weepy), but the counselor assures me that I am coping, and pretty well at that. He's a professional, so that makes me feel better. I told him that the biggest issues for me were fatigue and stress eating (because no Laston-job, cancer, the little things that make life a pain in the ass), and we're going to talk about that more next week and come up with some coping mechanisms that are healthier than those two.

But in the meantime, it's nice to know that a) insomnia due to what-if-scenario mind-racing is normal, especially in someone who is prone to this under the best of circumstances (he called it "hypervigilance," which sounds very Mad-Eye Moody to me), and b) part of the problem is that I am good in a crisis until the crisis is over, at which point I fall apart. This crisis is long term, and therefore I'm in constant crisis mode. Adrenaline keeps going.

I don't really know how Leanna is coping; she seems to be okay on the rare occasions when I see her, but she hasn't been here much. Part of this is fifteen-ness (that's about when I started having too much to do to make it to my dad's every other weekend, and also Abby is super busy and Leanna doesn't really like to come for the weekend if Abby's not here to hang out with). Part of it is likely a bit of denial; she's not here all the time like the other kids so she doesn't see the day-to-day of the illness. EDIT: She's here tonight and seems pretty okay, actually.

Abby seems okay for the most part, although her fledgling organizational skills (she took a class last school year) are kind of in abeyance at the moment. I don't know how much of this is nearly-thirteen and how much is worry for Laston, but I've lost track of how many times in the past few weeks there has been a frantic search for whatever object, only to find it in the car. Glasses, cell phone, homework, script, whatever.

Lizzy is even harder to suss out. She's her father's daughter and interested in the SCIENCE aspect ("see, mom, white blood cells are really yellow, and remember how you and the Magic Schoolbus told me they're the ones that fight disease, and you said they get killed by the chemo-medicine like the bad cells do? And that's why daddy is so tired and can get sick easily."). She is also her mother's daughter and tends to escape into books and/or whining about how hard the tasks she does not enjoy are. Again, might be worry, might be age. EDIT: She's having trouble in school this week; her teacher says several of them had rough weeks though, so it's possible some of this is Fall Back Fall Out as well.

But the counselor's statement that we (and this includes my mom) are doing an excellent job of keeping the kids in the loop at an age-appropriate level (while not scaring them), that helped, and helped a lot.

So did getting gifts from friends, offers of help, etc. Now all we need is the cure for cancer, a day at the spa, and to win the lottery. Failing that, continued response to treatment, a good massage, and a job* for Laston that will take his current limitations and run with them. Then we'll be good.

*on that note, how many of you would buy F*ck Cancer or Cancer Sucks (or equivalent) figurines made by 3D printer?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Two Weeks Down (and Fifty to Go)

We hadn't realized that chemo would last a year of every-other-week infusions.

The silver lining - because I always have to find one - is that because this is a very regular schedule, and Laston feels pretty good between treatments except for the three days of hitting a wall of fatigue, he can probably find work.

Wednesday he plans to call the unemployment people (because he applied online but he's not sure it worked). Hopefully that will help with the income bits. It really needs to, because we got the first of the medical bills. It's not huge in and of itself, but it's the first of, well, a year's worth. Eeek. Scary.

Scary like our Halloween wasn't. We were concerned that it might be too much for him, but he did just fine. Started to fade around nine, but that wasn't unreasonable, especially as the kids had gone trick-or-treating and come back already.

They made out like bandits. With the no-nuts for Abby and the no-chewy for Lizzy, I took about a third of their candy to work. And Lizzy still knocks one off the top of the bowl every time she gets one; there's that much. This may be because it was pouring and a number of our neighbors probably thought what the heck, no-one else it coming tonight; take the lot.

And the generosity we're experiencing is amazing. Even aside from the ones I've described in previous posts, there have been some lovely gestures, a few even from strangers. A friend of mine from all the way back in high school - that's over thirty years, folks - got Laston (whom he has never met) a shirt from the cancer care wish list. A friend of a parent of a friend of the family gave a GoFundMe donation out of the blue. Another friend has offered to donate what we planned to get Lizzy as a Christmas present.

No, I'm not going to tell you what that is. Sorry. But I'll give you a hint; it has to do with her absolute obsession with reading...