Chris (From the Bungalow) and I met face to face in March 2012, when I flew to Chicago to join him and his wife in shaving heads for St. Baldrick’s. Before that meeting, Chris and I had been blogging buddies for nearly a year. In light of our frequent thoughtful exchanges, I fully expected my introversion to be subdued even in the face of our first meeting. It was.
If you’ve been here a while, you know Chris inspired me to read the life-changing Donna’s Cancer Story. You know implicitly of his eloquence and ability to persuade; but for that, I would have a much fuller head of hair right now. What you may not know is that he’s also a father, a musician, a music therapist and one hell of a friend. My offline life is better for knowing Chris, and I trust you will understand why when you read his powerful words below.
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I will not sit idly by…
“They’ve ruled out everything else. I have ALS.”
As I listened to my mom speak those words, they didn’t make sense. Somehow, it never really registered with me until just now, right after I typed them. There has been an underlying malaise these past few months following the loss of my parents’ house to fire, and shortly thereafter, the sudden loss of my maternal grandmother to cancer. But that diagnosis… those words? Superficial until now. I didn’t want to accept it. I couldn’t.
Lou-fucking-Gehrig’s Disease, terminal in 100% of cases. Terminal? How?! How do we not know a goddamn thing about this? How did this happen?! Forget about that. How is my mom handling her prognosis? How is my dad handling it? My sisters? Me?
What am I supposed to do now? What is my mom supposed to do? I have more questions than answers. That’s an overwhelming place to be. I’m sad and angry. She lost both of her sisters when they were in their 30′s, lost both of her parents to cancer, and now this? An innocent, loving, caring mother and grandmother sentenced to death at some not-so-distant point in the future while her body slowly shuts down? Bullshit. It’s not right. It’s not fair.
And yet, there’s this voice in my head that keeps whispering to me… Read more…
Mackenzie (Brights Strange Things) means many things to me: late nights listening to Gary Jules and Common Rotation at the Hotel Cafe. Long drives up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in which we talked about everything under the sun. Improvised text message verses to the Common Rotation song “Fortunate.” Awesome book covers for my novels. The goodness of knowing–through having been there and done that, countless times over–I can safely tell her anything without her thinking less or more of me because she already sees and loves me exactly as I am.
It’s been eight years since we lived in the same town and a year since our last visit, but Mack is an ever-present feeling of love in my heart. I think you’ll see why as you read her words below.
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The Pogues and Parcheesi and afternoon strolls through IKEA
There are many things which have come easily to me, in the course of my life. I took pretty effortlessly to drawing things, and writing, and getting through school with an absolute bare minimum of effort, and I am also, for the record, pretty good at knitting potholders. Things that I am not so much good at include talking, telephones, arguments, coping with ghastly color schemes, and anything to do with relationships of any kind.
It’s not like I was a feral child raised by particularly unsociable dingoes, but it is fair to say that my family could’ve formed our own local chapter of Hermits United. During my formative years, when my classmates were learning how to strengthen or destroy friendships, fomenting drama amongst themselves, and taking every opportunity to practice their fornicating (I’m rather sad I missed out on that part), I was lost in my own mental worlds, for the most part content to completely avoid any sort of human interaction. I had a few friends, certainly, and was on good terms with pretty much my entire graduating class, but I had made a strong and early habit of keeping everyone at arm’s length. I also had what I then would’ve called “quirks” and my mom called “moodiness” which I now would probably classify as an amount of anxiety verging on clinical disorder. These and other factors are why, when I decided to move away from home and across the country after high school, things did not always go well.
It wasn’t that I was stupid. It was just that I was about as well-equipped for independent adult life as a penguin is equipped to survive in Death Valley.
Luckily, I had T. T was my first roommate, and probably my first truly close friend. T is older than I am, and to say that her experience of the world is somewhat broader is a vast understatement. She was well traveled and had gone to college and for some reason random strangers really liked to just walk up and talk to her, whereas I’d never even eaten at a real Mexican restaurant. T invited me to parties, towed me along to dinners, got me out of the apartment and generally did her best to socialize me. It was a fairly thankless job. I was walking social strychnine and I wasn’t always easy to live with, either. I was largely oblivious to everything from basic social cues to table manners to flatsharing etiquette. And yet, somehow, even at her most exasperated, T managed to gently cajole me toward adulthood without making me feel like I couldn’t also be myself.
When Deborah started this guest post series on thankfulness and gratitude, and asked me if I’d be interested in writing something, I thought of T first. Although we’d lost touch over the years, I still thought of her often, and by crazy random happenstance, right around the time I started writing this post, T tracked me down and got in touch again. I was delighted to hear from her, though everything I’ve had to say seems inadequate while “you’re my hero” kind of sounds like an invitation for a restraining order. Hopefully she still knows me well enough to know that if this blog is the best I can do for love letter and apology, that it’s only because I’m still a little emotionally stunted.
In those years of relative silence I’d often contemplated writing T to tell her how much she changed my life, and that I couldn’t think of a single thing I was more intensely grateful for than the friendship that she — and her own very gracious friends — had extended to me at a time when I needed it most, when things could’ve gone either way, when my choices really were to join the human race or to shut myself away from it. The changes she began laid the foundations for the person I became and am in the process of becoming. Because of T, I began to learn the tentative skills that helped me build all of the friendships that came after. And each of those people has also helped to shape me as a person in large and small ways. I carry some little piece of each of them with me, in the form of a memory, a song, a moment, a lesson, a turn of phrase, a regret, an old pain, a fresh joy.
So when you ask what I’m thankful for, I’ll tell you that I’m thankful for friendship and the way it grows, taking root in each part of a person and holding the center together. I’m thankful for The Pogues and Parcheesi and afternoon strolls through IKEA. I’m thankful for sweet potato fries, Hard Core Logo and impromptu cooking lessons. I’m thankful for cold drinks on the deck and a quiet conversation in the hay loft and messages from people who are half a world away but still so close by. I’m thankful for crashing on couches and laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe and knowing what it feels like to miss somebody when they aren’t there. I’m thankful for long meandering conversations from the driver’s seat and the crush of a crowded club and feeling that I can say anything, anything at all, and still be loved, always be loved, because there is no end to a thing that becomes a part of you.
I’m thankful for every minute of every day that another human being, motivated by nothing but kindness and love and camaraderie, reminds me that the only way to fail at life is choosing not to live it.
Lisa (Insignificant at Best) is much more significant to many than her blog’s title suggests. A mom, a tireless worker, and an aspiring writer, she wears many proverbial hats but has ample energy left over for her blog’s readers–and for giveaways, of which she is quite the maestra! All of this aside, she’ll ever hold a special place in my heart for being the first person to interview me as an author.
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The Strongest Woman I Know
My grandmother, whom I’ve always called Gran, is one of my heroes. All of five feet and maybe 90 pounds soaking wet, she is the matriarch of our family and the strongest woman I know. When my grandmother says something, you don’t argue, you do it; the whole family knows that.
When my parents divorced, my mom and I moved in with my grandparents and Gran became a second mom to me. When my mom was at work or on the rare occasion she went on a date (she normally left that for when I was with my dad), my Gran was there to watch over me. Sadly, I didn’t appreciate it at the time because we are both stubborn and would often fight. However, I look back now and cherish the memories I made while living with her and my grandfather.
I can still clearly remember the day I found out this woman I love and cherish so much had lung cancer. I was about four months pregnant and standing in front of the dryer in the laundry room when my mom broke the news. She told me not to panic, but try and tell a hormonal woman that. I remember hunching over the dryer silently crying after I hung up the phone. All I could think of was that my Papa (what I called my late grandfather) was already gone and wouldn’t get to know my unborn child and now possibly my Gran, too. It seemed so unfair that my baby wouldn’t be able to get to know two of the most important people in my life. I cried for a while after that phone call, but once I was done I pulled myself together and tried to be strong for Gran.
About a month or so later, she was admitted into the hospital so they could try removing the tumor. I will never, ever forget sitting there with my mom, my aunts and my uncles and hearing the doctor tell us that he didn’t think the surgery would be a success. (I still get teary eyed when I think about it.) He told us that from the looks of the scans, the tumor was in a spot that would be very hard to reach. He said that he might be able to remove some of the tumor, but doubted he’d be able to get all of it. The sadness in his voice was apparent and it broke my heart.
We were told we could go and see her once last time before she went into surgery.
I don’t know how I managed it, but I walked into pre-op and told my Gran good luck and that I loved her. I held it together, but just barely. I wasn’t even able to stick around until everyone wished her luck. I waddled as fast as I could out of post-op, through the waiting room and outside door. The moment I knew I was alone I broke; it literally felt as if my heart was going to break into a million pieces.
Finally I managed to collect myself and went to the one place I knew I’d find comfort; the hospital chapel. I sat there, eventually joined by my great uncle (Gran’s brother), for about two hours. I stayed until the baby would let me no longer; it (I didn’t know the sex at that point) was hungry and I needed to eat.
My aunt and I went and grabbed something in the cafeteria and the returned to the waiting room to see if there was any news. It wasn’t long before the nurse at the waiting room desk called out for my grandmother’s family; you could hear the panic in our voices as we told her that was us. She quickly explained there was no need to worry, but that one of the nurses in my grandmother’s operating room had called down at her doctor’s request. He had wanted to let us know that despite is worries he was able to get the entire tumor.
The surgery was a success.
The doctor was just putting her tube in and closing her up and he’d be down to talk to us. He just hadn’t wanted us to wait any longer to hear the good news. Can I just say, best doctor ever? I’ve never heard of a surgeon having someone call down to the waiting room like that and when we finally got to talk to him in person we couldn’t thank him enough for it.
It turns out that while the surgery was a huge success, my grandmother did have to have a third of her right lung removed. He told us this meant she would probably have to be on oxygen for the rest of her life and that she would have to go through chemo to make sure that she was completely cancer free. To us, though this news was nothing; she was likely going to make it and that’s all that mattered.
Little did we know that some of the worst was yet to come.
That afternoon we saw Gran and she looked great and even said she felt pretty good. I left the hospital with a promise to see her as soon as she was released (she made me promise not to come back because she didn’t want me pregnant and around all the hospital germs…gotta love her). I was emotionally exhausted, but elated; all in all the day went perfectly.
She got out of the hospital a few days later and that’s when things took a turn for the worse. My mom had offered to stay with her for the first week or so, after recovery, because nobody wanted Gran to be alone. When I wasn’t visiting I was calling to check up on Gran and each report started to worry me more and more.
My grandmother doesn’t like water, she’s always been a diet pop or crystal light drinker. Unfortunately, part of her recovery was to drink so much water a day and this was not going well. My mom could hardly get her to drink one glass, let alone the two quarts she was supposed to be drinking. It’s not like she was drinking other things, either. She just wouldn’t drink.
Then came food. She was periodically throwing up and said everything tasted funny so she’s barely eat all day. Gran started to rapidly lose weight right before our eyes. Not to mention she was maybe getting 1 to 3 hours of sleep a day. In fact it got so bad, about 4 or 5 days after returning home she was back in the hospital; where they kept her for a day or two and then sent her back home.
This is when things got their worst.
My grandmother was now home and back to her non-water drinking and eating ways. Not to mention she had started to say things that were very much unlike the woman we know and love. My mom was a wreck and so were the rest of us. In fact it got so bad that my grandmother said some very hurtful things to my mom and kicked her out, for no reason. Devastated, my mom packed up and went back home.
Nobody was comfortable with her being alone, but we had no choice. I still remember the day we had called to check up on her and got no response. I called my mom to see how Gran was doing since she didn’t answer my two phone calls and she informed me that Gran hadn’t answered her calls either. Since it was about three in the afternoon and we hadn’t been able to get a hold of her all day we started to panic. Since I lived closest my mom asked me to go over there and check up on her and I agreed. I called a few more times as I was heading over there and still no response. I don’t even want to tell you the thoughts that were running through my head.
When I arrived, I called out to her and got no response. I climbed the stairs (her condo has a first floor foyer and the rest of it is on the second floor) and made my way through each room until I found her in her bedroom. I crept up to the bed quietly and made sure she was breathing; to my relief, she was. I started to walk out and her head popped up. She questioned what I was doing and I just explained that we hadn’t been able to get a hold of her and we were worried. She told me she had been sleeping and that was it. I honestly thought she was going to yell at me for being there, but thankfully she didn’t. I apologized for interrupting her and let myself out.
I remember sitting in my car wondering when something was going to give. Did we over react by my coming here? Maybe. However, Gran was acting weirder and weirder by the day and she still wasn’t eating or drinking. Her weight had dropped into the 70’s; she was wasting away to nothing. Christmas was drawing very close at this point and I remember thinking all I wanted was for her to get better.
About a week later, give or take a day, I got a phone call from my mom telling me that Gran was back in the hospital. We were all concerned and hoping the doctors could figure out a way to help her; but as it turns out she helped herself. I got a call from my mom a day or two after Gran had been then admitted, telling me they figured out what the problem was. As it turned out “they” meant Gran. Turns out my grandmother started paying attention to when she was throwing up (this never stopped from the first time she came home from the hospital). Because of some other medication they had given her the previous night they had refrained from giving her another that she had been taking since the surgery. That evening she had no problems and even ate something. The next morning they gave her that medication and within a few hours she was getting sick. She explained her theory to the nurse and then her doctor, but neither wanted to believe it at first; likely because they were too stupid to figure it out on their own (to clarify this doctor was not the same awesome surgeon from earlier in the story). Being the spitfire she is, my grandmother fought to make them listen and got her medicine changed.
Once the problem was identified, my aunt, who is a nurse, looked up the troublesome medication Gran had been on. It turns out throwing up was just one of a few symptoms she was having. She was always complaining of a metallic taste in her mouth, which was caused by the pill. Not to mention this medication was known for causing strange/aggressive/uncharacteristic behavior in some people. With the change of her pill, all of this quickly went away. To this day we don’t even know if my grandmother remembers what she said or how she treated us (why upset her over something that wasn’t in her control?).
A day after her medication was changed my grandmother came home … for good. It was a slow and steady road to recovery after that. Her disposition went back to normal, she started drinking more, and eating more too. Sadly, she wasn’t up for spending Christmas with the family that year, but that was a sacrifice all of us were more than willing to make. We were just so glad she was going to be okay!
It’s been five years now since Gran’s surgery and about four since she was officially declared “cancer free”. Despite the fact that they told us she would likely have to use oxygen, she hasn’t needed it for even one day. She has never been able to gain all of her weight back, but hovers around the high 80’s (way better than low 70’s) and tends to get sick easier than she used to (to be expected when you’re older and missing part of your lung). However, she is still as feisty and vibrant as ever!
My daughter will be five this March and Gran has become a big part of her life. Every Thursday my mom picks up the kid (she works a 4 day work week and this is her day off) and heads over to Gran’s, where they spend the day. Not to mention the kid has spent many a weekday with Gran when my mother-in-law can’t watch her and there are times she has spent the night with her too. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it means to me that Gran is a part of my child’s life. I cherish the fact I am blessed enough to watch my daughter and Gran form a bond. To say that Gran adores her great-grand child is an understatement. I thought my cousins and I were doted on and spoiled when we were kids…we’ve got nothing on my daughter. She’s got her Great-Gran wrapped around her tiny finger and her Great-Gran loves every minute of it! It truly is a joy to see.
My grandmother once told me that before she went into surgery she had made peace with dying. I asked her why and she told me that she honestly thought she was going to make it through. She said she was surprised to wake up and find out that she was going to be okay. Well, she might have been surprised, but I’m not. My Gran is one probably the strongest and bravest woman I know. There was no way she was going down without a knock down drag out fight and a knock down drag out fight she had.
Gran 1. Lung Cancer 0.
This post was written in honor of my Gran, whom I love like a second mother. She is my hero and a true inspiration to me and my family. I love you, Gran.
Special thanks to the wonderful Deb for letting me tell her story. It felt good to finally get it all down on paper.
Also, thanks to all of you who stuck with this super long post and read the entire thing! I appreciate it!
Peg (Ramblings) was one of the first bloggers I stumbled upon in my efforts to expand my blogging horizons. Her tongue-in-cheek approach to most topics has had me giggling at things—such as the cost of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act freeway signs—that in less deft hands might be as hard to wade through as this sentence. But, oh! Her hands are deft, whether she’s using them to write compelling posts or to modify images in equally compelling, usually hilarious ways.
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I have… my children…my husband and my friends…enough to eat…a home…my health, and the health of my family…an agile brain and the education to feed it… a loving, supportive family that nurtures me…been born to a country where freedom is a right.
When I consider how much I have, the concept of gratitude is overwhelming. My mind shies away from it. I have done nothing to earn these things. There cannot be enough gratitude in the world for this embarrassment of riches.
I am reminded of Saint Therese of Lisieux, a French nun who lived in the 19th century and died at the tender age of 24. She knew she would probably never do big, great things with her life. She decided to praise God and help others by concentrating on the small things; how she handled chores, annoyances and the myriad triumphs and tragedies of daily living. She called this the Little Way.
“The only way I can prove my love is by… the doing of the least actions for love.”
I don’t mention Saint Therese as a prelude to comparing myself to her in any way, although her example encourages me anew to do better. No, I thought about the Little Way because it has something to do with how I have approached the blessings in my life.
My gratitude for all the big things is bedrock supporting an intention to try to truly appreciate the small, as well. I have unconsciously adopted a habit I will call the Little Gratitude.
In my life, there have been moments out of time that strike me almost a physical blow with their sweetness. Here are a few remembered:
- Running down the stairs in my parents’ home, my home, and being stopped, just for a moment, by the particularly luminous quality of autumn sun. It is pouring like golden, melted butter through the small, high windows of our front door, setting the dust motes to dancing before it falls onto the carpet of the front hall. Wanting to curl up like a contented cat in that spot of sun, secure in the knowledge of being a child well cared for, and well loved.
- Driving, every day, over the bridge that leads to my home, oblivious to my surroundings. Then a gleam on the water catches the corner of my eye. The setting sun, peeking from under low, purple clouds turns the water in the river to molten as it dies back for another day. I am struck dumb by the gift of such beauty.
- Coming around the bend on a summer country road in the deepening time past twilight, and spying a field heavy with fireflies. I stop with my two, young children and whisper that it is the Fairies Ball, and they are dancing with their glowing partners. We sit, spellbound, marveling at their graceful gavotte in the hot, perfumed night air.
- Lying on my husband’s warm, firm shoulder, hair tickling my cheek, his steady breath raising and lowering my resting head, and the feeling of being safe and cherished and home.
- Walking down our rutted, dirt lane, the fall air so crisp each deep draught is almost a bite, the sky a shade of blue saved from impossible only by a scattering of high, cotton-candy clouds. My hand clutches the small, soft one of my daughter and my heart is full to bursting. I am almost weeping, trying to memorize the sound of her high voice, the slight dampness of her hand, the wood smoke whiff of a distant fire and the crunch of leaves under our feet. I am thanking God for this here and now, and praying I will be able to bring it back to mind in the many, many years that may come.
These small times of blessing have usually taken me unawares, and left me trying to catch my breath in joy and thanksgiving.
For these and countless other bright, shining little moments in my life, I am deeply grateful.
John (The Adventures of Daddy Runs A Lot) had me at “I like Buffy.” Okay, I confess it’s unlikely he said those exact words, but it was somehow established we had a mutual affection for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As you probably know by now, 99% of the people who like this TV show are 10th-dan black belts in the martial art of “awesome.”
Much like our mutually beloved Buffy, John’s blog is a mix of humor and earnest contemplation. Each of these things is precious of its own right, but it’s the mixing of the two that leads to the truest reflection of life well lived.
Whether through the words “I like Buffy” or otherwise, I simply count myself grateful our blog paths did cross.
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Where I embrace my inner geek
I’m not sure how I came to follow the lovely Deborah here . . . maybe I was blog-hopping and she wrote a comment on someone’s blog that caught my eye. Maybe I was looking for topless photos of Jennifer Garner and somehow came upon her notes from being an extra on Alias. Maybe she stumbled upon my blog and I followed the link back to her place. All I know is that, once I figured out what “this,” was, I knew I was at home.
She was the mother of a little child. She loved to read. She enjoyed going to a comic-convention or two and has done what I hope to do, someday: complete a novel. She’s run marathons and can write something to make you sore from laughing one day and bring you to the brink of tears the next. ”Self, you’ve found your home,” I said to myself when I clicked on the subscribe button – and since then, it’s become just a wave of awesomesauce.
So, when the call for guest writers came out – well, I didn’t have much of a choice. I mean, I’ve already made myself at home, writing a few words seems to be the least I could do. And, somehow, writing about my inner-geek seems just about perfect here.
Why did I come to this conclusion? Because I delayed writing this because I had the Lord of the Rings on in the background, and I had to take a break for the Cave-Troll battle.
I’m fairly certain that I’ve had full conversations in nothing but movie quotes. Or Harry Potter quotes. I lament the fact that second breakfast and elevensies are not part of our culture. I know there is no greater way acknowledge an order than the words “as you wish.” When someone has unnaturally blue eyes, I wonder if they’re part-Fremen. I’ll argue, loudly, that we need to eat Irish babies in order to cure poverty in the world. I’m fluent in the rules of zombies, and I constantly question why there isn’t a single standard for vampires. I’m openly distrustful of six-fingered men. I associate the term “sex and violence” with the Muppets, and I firmly believe that the absolute apex of celebrity is to be on Sesame Street. The best way for the subject of a prophecy to not learn about said prophecy is to keep that subject from learning to read. The Seminal Fluids is a great name for a rock band. My favorite politician of all time is Clinton “Skink” Tyree. ”I know” may be the single most romantic line ever uttered on film, and Han shot first. If I could have but one item to hang on my walls, it would be the greatsword Ice. I’d fear a confessor more than I’d fear the electric chair, but not nearly as much as I’d fear thread. I truly freak out whenever I have an earache, as I’m convinced that the mind-control is near complete. Sometimes, the shadow of the great story is a better way to tell it, especially if the shadow is that of Bean. My Room 101 would have Fear Demons that grew well-past their actual size.
There was a long time of my life that I based what I liked on what I perceived others would think about it. Now, I gladly don’t care . . . and what I love about being around here is that it feels like there’s always a couch available for me.
Thanks, Deborah, for the opportunity.
Ilana (SlightlyIgnorant) comments with empathy and humor, but that’s not all there is to her. She touches on difficult topics so matter of factly in her blog’s autobio you feel confident that you could talk to her about anything. And, indeed, when you start exchanging comments and emails, you find you very much want to!
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“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
A few days ago, Deb asked to write a guest post for this, her awesome blog. I was incredibly flattered and excited and began to think of different topics I could write about. The guidelines I had received were loose enough to allow me lots of freedom: pick one thing I’m grateful for, and write about it. Simple enough, right?
Once I started thinking about it, I found that there were just too many things in my life that I was, am, and will continue to be grateful for. My parents raised me lovingly and treated me as an individual worthy of respect even when I was very small. My brother was a fun companion when we were kids – we wrestled and tustled all the time but we both enjoyed it – and has become a friend. My aunts have always been an inspiration to me and I’m proud to be able to call them family.
Then I thought of my friends: my oldest girlfriend from nursery-school who I’ve known for eighteen of my twenty-one years, the girl I met in third grade and spent most of my afternoons with for years, the shy and quiet teenager I met in high school who became an integral part of my life… and the list goes on.
The truth is, there are so many people whose presence in my life I’m grateful for that I can’t choose between them. It feels ungrateful, somehow, to pick just one.
Instead, I decided to pick something that may seem simple, banal, even silly – but it changed my life and is part of the reason I’m even here, writing a guest post for Deb.
I am grateful for Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling.
Are you laughing? Are you rolling your eyes? Are you sympathetically nodding and thinking Well, she must not have much going for her, I’d better humor her and read through her insane ramblings? If you stick with me, I’ll explain why I chose the boy-wizard and his famous, fabulous, fantastic creator.
My parents raised me bi-lingual; my dad spoke to me in Hebrew while my mom and I only conversed in English. When I was three, though, my family moved from sunny Los Angeles to the sunnier and sadly humid Isreal. Previously, I’d always spoken to my father in English, refusing, for reasons that are mysterious to me, to answer him in Hebrew. After the move, though, the primary language I heard spoken around me changed from English to Hebrew. I was forced to begin using the harsh, deep-throated raysh and chet, letters that Anglos find difficult to pronounce correctly. But I learned; or maybe I already knew how, and just hadn’t liked doing it.
Because of our move, instead of learning my ABCs at school, I learned how to read and write in Hebrew. First grade was agony, as I found the whole process of associating sounds and words with weird squiggles on paper to be tiring and difficult. What was worse, though, was that my lessons didn’t end when I finished my homework for school. Even after filling a workbook page or two with my wobbly, too-large, six-year old’s handwriting, I had to spend part of each afternoon with my mother, learning how to read in English.
It was horrible. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t get it. I learned to recognize the symbols that read “THE END” that appeared on the final page of each of the little books that my mom was using to teach me how to read, and I spoke those two little words with huge satisfaction whenever one of our torturous sessions was over.
Eventually, though, I could read and write in both Hebrew and English. I learned at the right age, and I suppose I didn’t have any more difficulty than any other average kid. But I still didn’t like reading. I loved being read to – one of my parents would read me a book or a chapter every night, as far as I can remember. If they’d hand me the book, though, with an inviting gesture and a smile, I would shrug my shoulders in that universal gesture that kids have for “Don’t wanna.”
I was, I confess, a TV child. At some point, my parents had to restrict my time in front of the television because if I’d had my way, I would sit in front of it all afternoon without indulging in any other activity.
When I was nine years old, in 1999, my brother turned thirteen and had his Bar Mitzvah. We visited family in California, like we did every summer, and my parents and grandparents threw a big party so he could celebrate this traditional coming of age with our American relatives. Great-Aunt Candy bought him what would become, although none of us knew it at the time, the vehicle of my salvation from Eternal-TV-Enslavement. She bought my brother, and me by extension, beautiful, hardcover copies of Harry Potter and the Sourceror’s Stone (remember, it was the American edition), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and the just released and much anticipated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
We flew back to Israel. We must have packed the books, although I have no particular memory of that. I don’t remember being excited or looking forward to reading them with my mother, although I do remember her saying something about how she’d heard good things about the books.
I also remember, vividly, her reading me the very first line, quoted above; I interrupted her and said, quite indignantly, “Dursley? But it’s called Harry Potter!” My mother smiled and said “Let’s wait and see.”
I waited, I saw, and I fell in love. One night, reading the sixth chapter, “The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters,” my mom stopped after at this line: “The train began to move. Harry saw the boys’ mother waving and their sister, half laughing, half crying, running to keep up with the train until it gathered too much speed, then she fell back and waved.” I recall how I tried to wheedle her into continuing, and how she wouldn’t because it was late and time for me to go to sleep. With that in mind, I guess what came next shouldn’t be all that surprising.
Every Friday afternoon, my parents took a long nap. I believe that on the Friday in question, my mom read me the second half of chapter nine, “The Midnight Duel,” before she took her nap. Writing this now, at the same desk I had back then, I can visualize the book sitting perfectly squared with the corners of the table, just where my mom had left it. I can see the little girl that I was, a little pudgy and still quite blonde, listening carefully to my parents snores, making sure they were sound asleep. The girl picks up the book and lies down on her bed, the same bed that is to her left as she types away on her computer twelve years later. She opens the book to chapter ten, “Halloween,” and begins to read.
I read thirteen pages, the entire chapter, the most I’d ever read on my own not only willingly, but eagerly as well. And I had loved it.
The funny thing was that I thought, for some reason, that I’d done something wrong. Once I realized I’d read a whole chapter, I balked and, carefully putting the bookmark where it had been before my intrusion, arranged the book to look as if it hadn’t been touched. I kept my secret all day, aching to read more but not daring to. I thought that telling my mother that I wanted to read the book alone would hurt her terribly. That night, when she began to read me “Halloween,” I couldn’t take it, and I blurted out the truth: that I’d already read that entire chapter. I burst into a flurry of apologies. I needn’t have worried. She laughed, and I remember her face glowing (although that might be my own emotions coloring the picture) as she handed me the book, kissed my forehead, and told me I could and should keep reading it alone.
If I hadn’t discovered the incredible world that J. K. Rowling created, I never would have become the reader I am today. My mother isn’t convinced of this, claiming that I would have developed a love of reading anyway. In the family I grew up in, it was almost inevitable, since everyone else loved to read.
But I remember very well how much I loved watching television, and I’m absolutely positive that without the Boy Who Lived, I wouldn’t have developed the all-consuming passion that I now have for books. Books have been my greatest escape, my most caring comforters, my friends in need and out of it, my protectors in every storm and my loyal sidekicks and companions during the days of calm waters and happiness. When I talk about books, about reading, my heart expands within me, my breathing grows rapid, and I experience the heady rush of true love engulf me. I wouldn’t have discovered the pure joy, the terrible sadness, the incredible empathy and endless wisdom that can be found in words, stories and characters.
And if I hadn’t discovered Harry, if I hadn’t become a reader, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.
When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in the summer of 2007, I’d just turned seventeen, like Harry. I grew up with Harry, Ron, Hermione and the others. I spent long afternoons discussing the books, speculating on what the next installments would hold. I read and reread the books I had over and over and over again, literally dozens of times, while still continuing to read widely and enthusiastically outside of the series.
Going to the first midnight-release party in Isreal, my met-in-nursery-school friend and I were already mourning the end of it all. Looking back at it now, I’m shocked to realize it was four years ago. Because Harry Potter’s importance hasn’t died out yet. Nor will it ever, even if it, for some odd reason, doesn’t become the classic it is already turning into. It will continue to live on in me, and anyone else who discovered the power of stories as they fell in love with Harry Potter.
Julie (goguiltypleasures) embraces and shares her guilty pleasures with such wholehearted zest that scientific studies have shown readers feel eleventy billion times happier after reading her blog than they were beforehand.
I caution you to follow the “recommended post” link below only when you have plenty of time to peruse. Like most of life’s sweetest offerings, it’s impossible to have just one bite of goguiltypleasures!
Recommended post: Sincerely Yours, Caring McCantYouSeeImTryingHere
Ten years ago, I attended a local community college in New Jersey, my sights set on transferring to a liberal arts university in Manhattan to study writing. I had a great group of older, witty, musically gifted, insanely intelligent friends, and when I wasn’t working or diligently studying, I spent my time with them. At that point, I’d been through some emotional turmoil (bullying and panic attacks) and had been home-schooled for high school. By 19, I had finally started to shed some of my old baggage, but conversations with this older crowd often left me feeling inadequate. I was always struggling to keep up with their knowledge of music, books, film, politics, religion, and hardest of all, their experience.
I liked to listen to ‘NSync and only read the newspaper if it was a class assignment. Rollerblading, baking, drawing and filmmaking were some of my hobbies. I loved fashion, Harry Potter and seeing pop rock concerts in New York City. I couldn’t get enough of my favorite television shows or juicy celebrity gossip. I was forced to admit the horrible truth: I was mainstream. Ordinary. I was doing something wrong, I thought; I needed to read those books I was “supposed” to read (but made me want to bang my head against a concrete wall), watch those films my friends said were best (but made my eyes droop with boredom), and visit museums “just for fun.”
It wasn’t just my friends who made me feel this way. Growing up, I always wanted to be The Smart One. The thing is, in my family, the bar is set extraordinarily high – I have a genius brother and an Ivy Leaguer father. To make a long story short, while I almost always got A’s in school, I never skipped a grade and never got into Princeton. I was The Artist (my brother had the coveted Smarty-Pants title, of course, while my sister had the Social Butterfly one). Even though I liked being called creative, I still felt the need to prove myself intellectually.
It wasn’t until 21, when I started dating my now-husband, that I realized how much time I was wasting on trying. Trying to be someone I wasn’t, to impress people who probably weren’t fooled to begin with or didn’t care much either way. My husband, more than anyone else, taught me to take the light-hearted road, and there is nothing I’m more grateful for. He’s shown me there’s no shame in liking what I like; the silly, self-indulgent girl I was trying to tame didn’t need stifling. Just because Clueless is my favorite movie of all-time and I’d rather listen to Britney Spears than jazz, doesn’t mean I’m any less interesting than the cerebral college mates I desperately wanted to win over. Those film snob friends who could talk for 45 minutes about the symbolism of Citizen Kane would be embarrassed to hear my husband get the same point across in one hilarious sentence.
Now when I have occasional lapses, and worry people will read my guilty pleasure blog and think I’m a shallow, one-trick pony, I laugh and say to myself, Who cares? Betcha I’m having more fun! What they might not realize is how difficult it was for me to get to this point. Luckily, I know if I start to get caught up in self-doubt, my husband will take my obnoxious words and repeat them in a ridiculous voice. Usually with a heavy lisp. You like using words like plethora, huh? Oh, you studied Nietzsche in college? Get the hell out of here, his teasing reminds me, you’re taking yourself too seriously.
My husband shows me, day in and day out, by his unwavering example, that there’s nothing better than being genuine. For this I am more thankful than champagne words can express. Even though I sometimes still have to force myself to share the goofy things [always] on my mind, it gets easier every day. And that’s like, you know, as the incomparable Miley Cyrus would say, pretty cool y’all.
Tori (The Ramblings) snared me immediately with her simultaneously exuberant and deeply considered posts. This combination of traits, only seldom seen traveling as such constant companions in the wilds of blogland, is enthralling enough, but do you suppose the magic stops there?
Not a chance! The fact she’s having her blog readers help plan her wedding is sure to have you wanting to know more, and be a part of that joy.
Recommended post: R & R (And R)
Take a Sip
“For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else.” - Sir Winston Churchill
I stood at the mouth of the ocean. The salt brushed loose from the breeze. Sand wrapped my toes. A baby babbled in the background. Just hushing wave, a child’s laughter, hushing wave, whirling winds, a child’s brilliant happiness. This is the best kind of lullaby, I thought. I love everything here.
I eyed a man to my left. I decided to call him Burt as it sounded sufficiently grumpy, and Grumpy, you will learn, was the pouty sir’s middle name. He was one man, a fuming island one slip of a tight jaw away from spewing hatefulness into pristine waters. His flimsy, red knickers suggested a playful side. His furious brow did not. Some minutes passed- him shooting angst from his eyeballs, me holding a head cocked like a concerned poodle. I waited for Playful Burt to invite us all for a leisurely game of volleyball. This never happened. I wondered if a hug would fix him right. Maybe a note tucked into his fanny pack could lighten his load? It would read: Perk up, Buttercup. Your glass ain’t half empty at the edge of this here ocean. Take a sip, fool. Take it all in. Your cup done runneth over. He threatened to rip paper from the seam with each flip of his book’s pages. He scoffed a bit, bothered by the natural beauty of it all, I suppose. I knew in that moment that for Burt the sun was too sunny, the sand too sandy, the saltwater too damned salty, and the child’s giggles so infuriating and giggly he could spit. I was sad to watch this stranger take his glass-so blatantly ready to spill over lip- and toss it aside, most certain that it held nothing for him. I peeled my feet from their borough on the beach and vacationed on to celebrate this good life elsewhere.
A week later, I am stuck in the mouth of a yellow slide. My son, the ever-adventurous toddler, has stopped for a rest mid-swirl. A line of antsy children fuss to at the top. A crowd of peeved parents fuss at the bottom. And I laugh. Oh, I laugh! My son giggles in time to my guffaws. The yellow slide vibrates with hilarity, and for a moment it is just me and my boy, tinted in the slide’s sunny shades and laughing at the echos of our laughter. Once regurgitated from the plaything, he runs past the pissy crowds towards the next best thrill the playground has to offer. States away from that awe of ocean, we find enough good in a muddy puddle. The dirt brushes loose from the breeze. Sweet smells of grass wrap my nose. A baby splashes in the background. Whoosh goes the swing, a child’s laughter, whoosh goes the swing, sun filters through every bone, a child’s brilliant happiness. I love everything here.
I look back to spot one mama still scrutinizing from a distance. Our pleasure, it seems, brings her greatest displeasure. For whole minutes she scornfully glances at us. It seems our lack of proper slide etiquette is close to unforgivable. Her children, gloriously golden-haired and delighted to play in the dirt are told to hush, to move, to cut it out. She is a gorgeous thing, slim and tan and lovely save for that soured purse of her lips. As one child ventures too deep in the dirt, she swipes them up, yanking and pulling the surprised tots towards the parking lot. Her one woman Circus of Fluster flies homeward in a luxury SUV. Maybe a note tucked into her diaper bag could lighten her load? It would read: Perk up, Buttercup. Your glass ain’t half empty when you’re double-fisting those there sippy cups. Take a sip of the good juice, fool. Take it all in. Your sippy cup done runneth over.
I check my e-mail as The Slide Scaler sleeps. A message from a fellow blogger asks for what I am grateful. Naturally, I make a list of people, places, things and more things. Health, Motherhood, Sunshine, Diet Coke. I love everything.
Then my hand detaches from my brain and scribbles Burt and Angry Lexus onto the page. How can I be grateful to perfectly volatile strangers? Before I know it I have added Cysts, Scars, Abortion, and Poor to the list. Awful, awful things for which I am filled with thanks? I promptly ask myself to shut up, but then I look closer.
It took those angry faces to teach me how not to live.
It took meals of crackers and Coke to appreciate a meal cooked, a bill paid, a bank account cushioned.
It took one miserable abortion, scars on skin and so deep down to bone to wipe me clean, to finally greet my son and tell him immediately and forever that this life, this life is so heartbreaking and good.
It took an e-mail from a blogger to make me realize that above all else I am grateful for my glass.
Some mysterious thing, some place or time, some experience or person thought in the darkest and lightest times to hand me a glass so dry and convince me that it would never, ever be empty. When, where and how this discovery smacked me I will never know, but I seem built to believe that it will never be empty. At the mouth of the ocean, in the throat of a snaking slide, I am simply thankful to be thankful.
Kasey (Single Working Mom) writes about life exactly as she lives it, addressing maddening, depressing and uplifting matters alike with candor and grace. What gets written on her blog is only half the magic of following her blog, though; the remainder falls into the equally candid email exchanges we would never have begun but for her blog! I am always delighted to read her words, no matter which forum they reach me through.
Recommended post: A Visit with Dad
All week long I was living in the town of Anxiety. Stressed to the gills about taking my daughter, Maycee, down to Grandma’s for the rest of the week, while she was sick, for a “vacation” we had planned long ago before summer began. She had a myriad of illnesses hit her at one time, two emergency room visits; I had already missed two days of work, preparing myself to miss more if her fever didn’t subside. After a follow-up visit with the pediatrician, ear infection was gone, her fever was denounced as not much to worry about, and the cold, well, it was just a cold. With the game plan in place to proceed with grandma’s visit if the doc said all systems go, we were in the car, bags packed with Blanky, Bluey, and Crystal Kitty, heading south to meet her dad for pickup and transport. Maycee was excited to be going, ready to have some change of scenery after four days couch-ridden at home, but within a short amount of minutes she was crashing out in the back seat, tired and plainly spent.
I am blessed. My daughter does not get sick often. Perhaps over seven and half years she has been really sick—REALLY SICK—about three other times. The last one was pneumonia/croup that took us to the emergency room when she was three years old. I was separated from her dad then, but still living within a close distance to him as well as other family. I worked mainly from home along with two other part-time day jobs that were not very restricting at all to parenting. I was able to be at home with her without much concern or fear, knowing all jobs could do without me just fine. It was a different time and a different place, a different life. It seems like another world away, really. She recovered from that scary illness in about a week. Not too long, and with marked progress. This time, at this age, the same end result was not occurring, and I now live two and half hours away from her father and my family, work a day job, 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, and manage all life’s complexities in isolation.
I had so many ideas for this guest post. In fact, I had settled on one FTIAT subject with emphatic decisiveness, mulling over what details I would include, how beautifully I could string the concepts together…hmmmmm…but that just wouldn’t be me. Not in the blogosphere. Not in my head. Because of this: when I grasp the hour or two I steel for myself to write I MUST simply write what is pressing on my heart at that very moment. I could be no truer to those reading if I did not write this way. And, the blogs I gravitate toward do the same. I will say this then, I’m fairly certain I will one day post my original FTIAT planned subject matter when it hits me…But today, for this guest entry it boils down to this: DRUMROLL PLEEEEEEEEAAAASSSSEEEEE…
I AM SO VERY THANKFUL FOR MY DAUGHTER, MAYCEE.
She made it through the week at Grandma’s with a lot of difficulty but some recovery. Then, it was off to her dad’s for the weekend. All totaled I was away from her for seven days. Seven days too many. As a single working mom I certainly cherish a few quiet moments “childless”. I scramble to get chores done or tackle a larger house project that I’ve had to put off. I sleep in (if I’m not under guilty duress) until 8AM and slowly drink a warm cup of coffee rather than quickly drink half of one, cold. But, if you put a hidden camera in my home during my first night of imposed “freedom” this is what you’d see (fictitiously narrated by any of your favorite announcers):
There she is, Kasey. She’s just standing there. In the middle of her living room. Looking around. What’s she looking at? Oh, there she goes, now she’s going to the kitchen. Wait, she’s back. She’s back in the middle of the living room. Staring. At the walls? It’s midnight. Why doesn’t she go to bed? What is she doing?
Because without my daughter there is too much space for me. Because without the hours filled to the brim of 9:00 at night with work, camp, childish whining, scolding, questions, giggles, and hugs I hardly know what to do with myself until a day or so has passed. This I’ve come to recognize with immense gratitude! I’m so very thankful that I do not live solely for my own self any more. That although this single mom-hood life isn’t what I’d wanted or planned for, I wouldn’t trade it for anything if it meant not having my little one. I wouldn’t want to go back to a life where the world revolved around memyselfandi. Other mommy-friends say, “Oh, I would love it if I could have a few days to myself. It’d be so nice.” Sure it would. Sure it is. I need re-charging; we all do. But more-so than the pleasure of solitary confinement, when I’m away from Maycee for days or a week at time it reinforces my sense of gratitude for this amazing gift I’ve been given. I’m a mom, I’m a mom, I’M A MOM! Rejoice and be glad in it! HALLELUJAH!
I picked Maycee up today at 4:10PM. The hours did not move quickly enough for me. I called her every day she was away; sometimes twice. I parented through Grandma and her dad by phone. I wanted to climb through the receiver to give her hugs, give her medicine, give her all of me, but I couldn’t, so I’d say, “Can you feel it? This is Mommy giving you a hug. MMMMMMMMMMHMMMMMMMMM!” She’d reply, “Ooooooh, that was a good one, Mommy! I could feel it!” I picked up Maycee today, and when I got into that McDonald’s parking lot she was holding her dad’s hand until she saw me. Then, the smile grew bigger and bigger, and she let go of Dad’s hand in anticipation. I quickly parked the car, jumped out, and grabbed my girl. Crying, I hugged her so tight, told her I loved her, how much I missed her. This time even more than the rest, if that is possible, because I had to trust her recovery within the village it takes to raise a child-not my own hands. She said to me, hugging me back, “I missed you, too.” And, I was so very, incredibly thankful she is mine, and I am hers: Maycee’s mommy. HER ONE AND ONLY MOMMY.
This drive home there was no Scooby Doo movie playing in the backseat, no DSi games going, barely any music. Just loads of relief and love you could feel through the seats and carpet and windows of the car. Talking, catching up, as if we didn’t talk fast enough we’d lose our breath. Mother and Daughter. Laughter that swelled with each mile until we reached the Yellow Submarine, and Maycee said, “I’m going to let you get out of the car and get to the door first so I can run right in [to our home, that is]!” And For This I Am Thankful.
I am also thankful for you, Readers. In this life, today, be happy, and as always, give a chuckle.
last : A Moment of Clarity | Take A Sip (11/18/11) : next
Byron MacLymont (The Byronic Man) has a gift for making people laugh. I base this not only on an official survey of millions–specifically, myself and my S.O., Ba.D.–but also other peoples’ comments on his blog.
As if inspiring laughter weren’t enough, Byron i’s also a brain surgeon, a former Olympic kick-boxer and bench-presser-of-adult-bulls. He modestly claims in his bio that he can bench-press only one, but I see right through this artifice, mostly because he bestowed upon his subscribers the gift of seeing through artifice.
Sadly, his other superpowers are non-transerable.
Byron’s greatest power of all is his ability to take time out from his busy schedule of crime-fighting and penning Cyrano de Bergerac to share beautiful, heartfelt truths in ways that fill a reader’s eyes with tears and heart with wonder. Like most awesome superpowers, this is one best used sparingly to emphasize just how powerful it is, and Byron uses it accordingly.
I am honored he has chosen, this time, to use it at TMiYC.
Recommended post: Life: The Yelp Reviews
A Moment of Clarity
Yesterday, October 27th, was my 10-year wedding anniversary. It’s a little difficult to even comprehend that that is true. In part because it doesn’t seem possible that it’s been 10 whole years, in part because it doesn’t seem possible that there was a time before her, and in part because nothing – I mean nothing – in my previous track record suggests that this would be a possibility.
The longest relationship I had before this one was six months. I had several that lasted six months, but they all ended at that point, like clockwork. I won’t go so far to say that I am totally responsible for the end of all of them, but I wouldn’t scoff or get immediately indignant at the suggestion, either. I didn’t know much, but I knew I liked being the white knight; being adored. I also, like many young men, loved the chase. I also think that I was so unsure of who I was that I kind of panicked when someone was getting to know the actual me, instead of the version of me I tried to put forward. The guy underneath the glistening armor, if you’ll pardon the hackneyed metaphor. Whatever the impetus, it involved either bad choices, or choices handled badly.
When I met her I was in a time of transition, so maybe I was open to different things, but the fact is that she was really unlike anyone I’d dated before. Unlike the people I’d pursued. Yet I was immediately and totally drawn to her, like a magnet. Something inside was ferociously saying HER. THIS ONE. I remember talking to my parents and saying that it seemed as if I was walking along and had come upon a large pile of gems and jewels, and I had to hurry and find a way to scoop them up, because surely someone was going to beat me to it.
I had always been very clear that I would never marry someone unless we’d dated for a year. That I’d be very rational about something like that. Within a week I knew this was it. Within 3 months we were engaged. Almost exactly a year after meeting we got married… so I guess, technically, we dated for a year before getting married. But I don’t kid myself that it was rational and stoically planned.
She continues to be unlike anyone I’ve known. She pushes me, challenges me, complements my weaknesses.
Marriage is everything they say it is, and nothing they say it is. Marriage is about hardships I couldn’t have imagined, couldn’t believe we’d have the strength to face. Sometimes I’ll joke with her about “the things they don’t tell you in the marital vows,” and you’ve sure never been mad until you’ve been mad at someone you love, but the fact remains that I am a more complete, stronger person than I ever was before I met her, or could have become without her. I’ve also had more fun since meeting her than I ever had before that. Gone on more adventures. Taken more risks.
It would be easy to say that I am thankful for her, and I am, but when Deborah asked me to write up a “for this I am thankful” what came to mind was whatever it was in the air, in my brain, whatever, that made me see she was the one to pursue. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in my history suggested that I would make a smart relationship choice when the time came, but somehow I did. I don’t know why, I don’t what in me clicked, but for that moment, that instant, I am thankful and mystified.
It would also be simple to say I’m thankful for that moment when we’re curled up watching a movie, or when she comes up with some impossible adventure to go on and makes it happen. Because it’s easy to be thankful during the good parts. But marriage isn’t just about the good parts – it’s about all of it. All of yourself, all of your partner.
And so while I am thankful during these easy times, I’m also thankful when she insists we do the grocery shopping even though I’m exhausted.
When I’ve just screwed something up, and she can’t wait even a couple hours to tell me what I could have done differently, I’m thankful then.
When I say I’m sorry and she replies, “No, you’re not. If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have done it in the first place,” somewhere deep down, I’m thankful.
When she looks at the back of my head and says, “Hey, your hair is thinning” for no other reason than because she knows it’ll make me crazy with paranoia, I’m still thankful.
When I’m mad and fed up and think, Oh, screw this, life was easier when I was on my own, I’m thankful.
When she insists that she needs, needs, another dog, or cat, or a pig, or God knows what else, I’m thankful.
When I just can’t believe how complicated everything has to be all the time, I’m thankful.
When I ask if she’s ready to go, and she says yes despite the fact that she is very definitely not ready, and I’m going to be late for work, again… I’m thankful.
I’m thankful when she wants to pester me and draw on my arms when I just really, really want to go to sleep.
I’m thankful, even now, knowing she’ll read this and use it as ammunition to pester me even when I’m telling her to knock it off.
When I’m so mad I can’t even speak, there is that part of me that is thankful.
Basic ideas of cause & effect suggest that that moment, that transformation, should not have happened. It was an anomaly, an unpredictable occurrence. Yet, it did happen. And 10 years later here we are, and we still love each other, still have fun together, still face challenges together. And for the spark that made me see in her what could be, and what I could be with her, I am truly, deeply, thankful.
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