Sunday, June 24, 2018

Writing Update doobeedoo

Hey peeps,

I was writin', then vewy vewy quiet, and then suddenly writing again! And now quiet again. Updates:

As I got sicker from Cushing's I was no longer able to keep up this blog. Then after my surgery in Oct 2017, my brain started to function better and I started writing again. After a few posts here about my illness, I decided I should write a memoir about the whole experience (actually, my friend Allison suggested that), part therapy, part wanting to help others avoid what I went through. Or at least know they aren't alone.

I'm also writing a romance novel with my sister as total therapy to focus on something that has nothing to do with how crappy I feel or the state of the world around me. Anxiety is a killer. is still humming along. I'm no longer a Core Contributor, but continue to keep my feet in the water.

I'm on the Albany Tea Festival planning committee and we're working on a bigger, better festival this coming Fall. Woot!

Due to pain issues, guitar isn't happening. However, I'm practicing the piano more. No composing, but considering I have like, 300 songs in my file, I think I'm good. If I get bored (crazy laughter) I can always record the songs that never made it onto previous albums. No plans to perform soon. Not up to that energy level or anxiety. Nope. Nope. Nope. If you're bored, you can listen at cdbaby or bandcamp. Or if you want to see my FACE, old YouTube videos (under fw5blue) should do it. Did you hear the improv Lincoln in Hot video? I thought not...

Barely. I'm only working with my private students at the moment, and cut down for the summer to rest more. Finances are tight, so don't expect any fancy presents.

Recovery is continuing at a steady pace. I have to keep my cortisol levels high enough not to go into shock, but low enough to make me miserable and wake up my remaining adrenal glad. But I look closer to "normal" than before, and I'm sleeping better (though not great) so signs are positive.

I get overwhelmed by people, so have been keeping a low profile in real life, however, I'm active on social media because...I'm sure there's an addition on some level, but whatever, get high with me on twitter (@rebeccaangel) and instagram (fw5blue) mostly.

Olympic Dreams:
I do hope to attend them one day. Doesn't matter Winter or Summer. I like watching amazing people. Oh, you thought as a participant? (crazier laughter)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Teen Parenting Olympics

James Breakwell, a very amusing parent and writer, posted a Parenting Olympics list that showcased the variety of skills needed to raise the younger set of progeny. After I read it, I replied to him:

 Very funny, though it seems that this contest rewards skills aimed at keeping your child from killing themselves, which is the point of parenting in the early years, in contrast with the later years being trying to keep the parent from killing the child. A very different sort of Parenting Olympics.

Parenting teens and young adults has its own unique trials that I probably shouldn't post about in case those with the younger set imagine a time when their kid has the abilities to drive to the grocery store, fluently read the shopping list, pay with their own credit card, come home on time, put all the food away, and make you dinner- that it would ever happen. Or that you would want it to.

And that is the tricky part of Older Parenting Olympics; it isn't a contest of physical skills or even stamina, it's a mind game, a Battle of Wits, if you will, between you and your own immature self. Yes, you thought it was between the parent and teen, but alas, it really is a test of your ability to act like an adult in every trial instead of the petty, selfish, oblivious, sensitive teenager you still are inside.

The contest would be a series of questions with several factors to influence your decision with no right answer and whatever choice you make will result in a follow up challenge that you will ultimately fail because you didn't see it coming. Actually, you never see these things coming. Let's get to the challenges! (Replace genders as needed.)

Challenge One: You son asks you to pick up his original piece from the school's art show.

You are very proud he was in the art show.
If it isn't picked up, he may not get it back.
You had already said you would pick it up when he asked you last week, even giving you the permission slip to do so.
He got the date wrong and it's not next week, it's today.
You have a free schedule today.
You have a free schedule because you are sick and cancelled work which you rarely do because, well, money, which goes for things like college tuition.
It's available for pickup from 9am-noon and he is texting you at 11:15am.
He is texting you from the beach on spring break.
You are in the midst of Not Spring in upstate NY.
He said please.

Your Answer: You get it for him.

Follow up challenge: This results in a heart emoji sent back, which doesn't seem to cover it and you secretly hope he gets a little sunburn that day, then worry that he isn't using enough sunscreen for real because last time he was at the beach he got sun poisening. You have an "emotional restraint challenge" of not texting a reminder about wearing a hat, and not feeling guilty about the previous petty revenge fantasy.

Sort of reward: He then also texts that he will make you dinner when he returns as a thank you. Feelings are mixed.

Surprise challenge: Later that evening your co-parenter both agrees and disagrees with your decision starting a "conversation" about letting kids fail so they learn to be independent. No one wins.

Challenge Two:

Your daughter is going on her first big trip. She is leaving for the airport early in the morning so you want to say goodbye tonight. Entering her room you see her finishing up her packing. You notice she is nervous. You are too because there are "issues." Say all the right things.

Your Answer: "Don't forget to say goodbye to Grandma."


Follow up challenge: She turns to you with The Look. This is the same look before the tantrum at three years old, the running away at nine, and the flip outs at fourteen. You try not to tense. You have trained for this event for many years. The key is to remained relaxed, but focused. You still tense. She responds, "No. Why do I have to?" Is this a rhetorical question?

Your Answer: "Grandma will notice that you are gone for days, and it's rude not to say good-bye, and she will worry because she cares."


Surprise Challenge: She snaps back, "But I don't care about what anyone else is doing!" How do you respond? The judges of the Older Parenting Olympics are looking for creativity and a good story to tell your grandchildren.

The honesty of her response is staggering.
Equally staggering is that you know she thinks this is a very good and fair reason.
You were an idiot at her age.
Your parents still love you.
You want her to have a good trip experience.
If she has a good trip experience she will go away a lot.

Your Answer:
You walk away. A couple hours later, ready for bed, you stand in the doorway of her room where she is going over a travel guide. You say, "what are you most looking forward to on your trip?" She looks up smiling and comes over to show you a couple cool places she wants to see. You hug and kiss. Two days into her trip she texts you happy photos and little message, "btw, I did say goodbye to grandma before I left."


Disqualification! Later you share this story with other parents instead of the hundreds of complete failures. You don't care.

Closing ceremonies:

I realize the Older Parenting Olympics may seem a discouragement to those with younger kids to continue the race course, but I assure you the "medals" are worth it:

Bronze: You are out with you older child and they make a joke that is actually, seriously funny. Not because they are cute or clever, but they have the same sense of humor as you do, see the world similarly, and most importantly, wanted to share it with you because they know you better than most people ever will, have seen your best and worst sides, and still want to make you laugh.

Silver: You drop them off at some random place and offer a quick good-bye, hoping to get home in time for XYZ when they say, "Thank you for everything you do for me. I love you." Those exact words.

Gold (ish): They keep coming back home. (This may be the booby prize, but that's up to you.)

Actual Older Parenting Olympics:
What? You thought that was it? Oh, no. That was just the qualifying round. The actual Olympics start with the realization that it was so much easier when you had a way to help or at least interfere because most days all you can do is bite your lip and watch as they fail in real life in ways that matter much more than an art show or being polite. In ways that break your heart as they have theirs broken again and again, and you wish the Olympics would just end already. Wasn't there a cut-off? Eighteen? Twenty-one? When does the worry stop? Never. Instead of medals you get a friend, maybe a grandchild or two, and hope for the future in this person you know but don't know, is you but is not at all you, is special and is very, very special always. Forever. All I can promise is that you get the only medal that matters, love.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Friday, March 23, 2018

March Sucks. Here's Some Tea and Inappropriate Laughter

God, I hate March. Macbeth, man. He should have known. I'm like an ice-cream server with a group of teen girls trying to decide on their flavor. Are we winter? Spring? Snow? Freezing rain? Sunny? Cloudy? Long-johns? A t-shirt? MAKE UP YOUR FREAKIN' MIND BEFORE I SCOOP YOUR ASS!!! Sorry, just had flashbacks to my days of serving ice-cream in a dining hall.

Hold on while I make myself a cup of tea. Perhaps a chamomile blend.

Ah, much better. Now where were we? Yes, March, the little *&%&%^^$#@!!! Instead of my usual ranting and musing about how crappy I feel, I will give you three memories of when I was laughing inappropriately. We all need the respite.

The Wiz Costume Kerfuffle
My sophomore year of high school was the musical The Wiz. My friend Yvette and I were chorus. We grumbled about it, but still enjoyed ourselves. My best friend Allison was Evilene, the wicked witch, and she rocked the part. In one scene, I was with a group of slaves shuffling around the stage when Dorothy and her posse come in and flush the witch (literally). Yvette had her one and only line of running onstage to announce the visitors. Unfortunately, she was in a big number right before and had a quick costume change. Those in theater can see where this is going. One performance, I was moving boxes onstage and groaning or something when Yvette missed her cue. We slaves continued to groan while Allison improvised yelling and cursing us until finally Yvette stumbled onstage. She was slightly hunched over and missing an arm? I knew it was unprofessional of me to stare, but as I grabbed a box in her direction I saw that she had had some trouble with her costume and it was somehow on sideways with only one arm able to come out, and the other hitched behind her, forcing her to look like the Hunchback of Emerald City. I quickly turned my back to the audience and burst out laughing, muffling it as best I could with my sleeve. Allison obviously saw Yvette, heard me, and shot me a murderous look because she couldn't break out and laugh since she had lines and had to carry the scene. A part of me realized I should pull it together for the play, but most of me just didn't care. It was a high school performance that was mediocre at best, maybe fifty of our family members were in attendance in a theater that could fit two thousand (not kidding), I was unimportant to the plot, and was only doing it to have a good time. Laughing at my friend's mistake, and trying to get my other friend to break character seemed like the BEST time. And it was. Afterwards both of them yelled at me and I laughed even more. To this day if either of them bring it up, I guffaw.

Mystery Science Theater Psycho
Freshman year of college I started dating a cutie. He had a similar sense of humor and we reveled in making each other laugh. Since there was no movie theater in the small town, the college would host movie nights over the weekend for $1 a ticket. They played a random assortment of films, including, one evening, Psycho. My cutie and I went to the Friday night showing and it was a freaky film. I jumped, he held me, it was a swell time. We decided to go Saturday night too (considering there was nothing else to do) and brought along some friends, maybe a dozen people all together. Oh. My. God. My cutie and I were horrendous. Creepy the first time around, the second viewing was just a series of "old timey" movie shots. We never stopped making jokes. Every scene had something to make fun of it. We got looks, we got shushed, and considering these are college students, that says how much we were being disruptive. But cutie and I were on a roll; there was no stopping us. Of course, I can't think of a single joke now, but trust me we were SO FUNNY. I'm sure of it. Maybe. Well, we were laughing a lot anyway. Cutie became Hubby and we still love Hitchcock films. Don't you want to watch one with us?

Getting it on Behind the Sarcophagus
One Spring, my sister was performing Beethoven's 9th Symphony which has the most well-known tune in classical music, the Ode to Joy sung by a choir, celebrating life, written by a man who was dying. I went to see the performance, deciding to crash with her for the weekend as well and pretend I wasn't a homeschooling mom of two, trying to finish my degree, with little social excitement. The concert was Saturday, and Friday evening my sister took me out to the Upright Citizen's Brigade, which is a comedy club in NYC. Also in attendance were my high school buddy (and former Evilene) Allison, and my sister's friend, a guy...can't remember his name but he was pretty cute. The comedy club was gold. I laughed so much I seriously considered leaving so I didn't pee on myself. The next evening we all attended the concert. It was beautiful, I'm sure. I can't really remember any of it because Allison, the guy and me were passing notes the whole time making jokes that, of course, we couldn't laugh out loud about, which of course, only made them funnier. The concert took place in a cathedral with the sarcophagi (that's correct!) of Bishops or martyred peasants or whomever surrounding the pews. At one point, the guy passed me this note: Wanna make out behind the marble Bishop? I knew I was not going to be able to hold it in, so I bit down on the heel of my palm, hard. And still snorted a little. Oh, did I mention the concert was a benefit for Holocaust survivors? It was.

My tea is all gone. But I feel better. I hope this brightened your March day.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Keeping New Wine in Old Bottles

“Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted or enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles.”― Henry David Thoreau

Your pants are falling down. Belts look ridiculous; you need new pants. You look up in your closet to the shelves of shoved in old clothes, clothes you never bothered to sort because you didn't want to deal with it, too lazy, too tired, not willing to accept that you might be this size forever. Lucky for you. Pulling down something that looks like pants, a whole pile cascades down to the floor. You bite your lip anxiously while trying stuff on, but it fits. Your old jeans that drag at the heel, your old shirt in that rusted orange that isn't your color, but you like anyway. You had gotten rid of the very small stuff years ago, when you simply figured getting older meant going up a couple sizes. But when you kept going up, you just shoved them away.

You show your son, who gives you a hug and tells you you look great. You go back and pick out a brown corduroy jacket with a plaid lining that you only wore once. You burst into tears. Nothing fit that day years ago, nothing was fitting, and you wanted to look nice in church so you went to the consignment store and found that beautiful jacket that fit perfectly and you wore it to church the next day and someone came up to you and asked when the baby was due. You came home and shoved it high in the closet.

You scan the pile of clothes: in-between sizes clothes, clothes that never fit exactly right, and a few very small geeky t-shirt you just couldn't throw away. And you cry more remembering a dress you bought to try and look pretty, when you were never feeling pretty. You had worn it on a beautiful day, walking to meet your husband for your anniversary lunch, and a stranger commented on your weight. You didn't want it to matter, but it did, how could it not? Your weight was a reminder that something was wrong with you, something was very, very wrong and doctors were not paying attention when you said, "I look in the mirror and I'm not me." And you cried while walking to that lunch, but tried to pull it together before you saw your husband, but couldn't because you were so sad and so worried and so, so tired. He gave you hugs and told you you were beautiful and he loved your new dress, and it was a delicious lunch outside in the sunshine. 

You take out the clothes from your drawers that are too big now and plop them on the pile. Your daughter comes in and you tell her you don't want any of this, you can fit in the old ones but you don't want them, you don't want ANYTHING here. She quotes you Thoreau and then says, "Get rid of them. You don't owe them anything. They're just clothes." And then she reminds you that you need to drive her to the bus stop so she can go back to school and take her art history test. 

So you pull yourself together, which is much easier to do nowadays, promise yourself that you will compliment a stranger on their outfit today, and go.

Two days later. Donated.

Rise unfettered.

Move with intention.

Be grand.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Trying Hard, Surprising Limits, and Comfortable Failure: A Healthy Brew

Sipping my new green tea my daughter's roommate gave me from her trip in Japan (smooth with a perfect aftertaste), I am re-evaluating my bar of success. Grocery shopping was one too many things today. I have a head-ache and since my afternoon students cancelled, I could have just rested.  Instead I went to the store, cut it short, then crashed on the couch when I got home, not even putting away the food until later. My bar is much lower than I want it to be.

Around our mid-twenties, my husband, brother-in-law and myself had a few conversations about finding our limits for the first time. It was really about dealing with failure, but we didn't use the f-word. All three of us had been "smart" in school - meaning, we had the innate talents traditional education likes best. This led to boredom in the classroom. For my brother-in-law, he would annoy the other students; be a disruption. For me, I would sketch classmates, or read books under my desk. And my dear husband would try to pay attention but find his mind drifting to fantasy worlds.

With a few notable exceptions, we never had to try very hard to succeed. Failing at something meant we weren't interested in it. Unfortunately, this meant that real life presented us with our first failure opportunities, and we were lucky we pulled it together. In law school my brother-in-law struggled for the first time, and considered dropping out. Instead he asked for extra help to figure out this new language and succeeded. It was an eye-opener. For my husband, he found himself in extraordinary circumstances trying to get his PhD all alone in a lab under intense pressure to finish quickly because his adviser had already left the school, while working full time to support his family of four. Trying his very, very best let him do just OK. A blow for the guy was both the valedictorian and could do a slam dunk on the basketball court.

And I was trying to be the BEST MOM EVAH which my kids didn't seem to care when one would bang their head and the other would throw a tantrum in aisle three of the grocery store simultaneously. Since I looked like the teen mom I was, I was doubly embarrassed because I knew society considered me a failure already. As an at-home mom, my physical endurance and patience were challenged, but my brain was bored, so I decided to improve my musical skills. I wrote songs. Took up a new instrument. I went to an open mic and failed completely- couldn't even finish, my hands were shaking so badly. But I went back. And failed again. And kept going anyway. The groceries still needed to be purchased and my kids were too little to leave at home so that continued as well. I learned to live as a total failure and found it freeing.

When it takes you three weeks at an open mic to get through one song, everyone cheers. When you look like you're too young to own a cat, and your two children say "Thank you", the neighbors are impressed. Surprisingly, when the bar was lowered, I tried harder. No one expected much so I did my best. I defined my own success.

Then I started to get sick. It was so very gradual with seemingly unrelated symptoms that I kept pushing to continue being the super bestest at everything. But I couldn't keep up. Like my husband years ago, it took my very best to just be OK. And then I couldn't even do OK. But I didn't look sick. My weight gain was noticeable, but most people aren't going to say anything about that. I had to lower my bar myself. I had to slow down before I had a name for my disease. I at first thought I was failing, that I just needed to try harder, but I was under extraordinary circumstances. I had to ask for help. Lots and lots of help. I had to let people know I was sick so they wouldn't expect me to Along the way I failed other people by not realizing my limits. That's probably the worst part.

As I am slowly healing, I have to remind myself that the bar is still low for a reason. I pushed myself last week and had a difficult few days recovering. I did it again this weekend, wanting so much to be at my previous level of "normal", and am suffering for it. The doctor called and only had bad news. I'm much more patient with two screaming toddlers than I am with myself. I need to be comfortable in my "failure", realize that a successful day is one that I set realistic goals for myself and try my best, adjusting along the way. It's a never ending lesson.

One person in this story I didn't mention yet is my sister. She did not have an innate talent for figuring out school. She did just fine in school due to hard work and asking for help everywhere she could. She never expects anything to be easy or simple, and although failure always sucks, she isn't surprised or set back by it. Right now she is a healthy mother of two polite children, an amazing pianist and composer, and has her PhD in molecular biology. If she decided to go into law, I'm sure she would do it at her own pace with lots of help, and succeed.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dear Santa: You'll Need The Head's Up

Dear Santa:

I realize this letter is a bit early, but considering it may involve some time travel and shape-shifting magic, you better get started on my list.

1. My son's Christmas present tea. Someone (he can't remember who) gave him a container filled with a delectable herbal tea, probably home-made or a craft fair hence minimal labeling, and I have been "sharing" it with him. Since I (usually) make him a cup of tea at the same time, I do believe that act cancels out any proclivity towards the Naughty list when I just flat out pilfer his stash.

2. Lafayette. To be specific Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. I was toggling between him and Jefferson because I was listening to Hamilton and remember adoring both men from history class (intelligence and passion = sexy) and then found out they are played by the same actor, go figure. But Jefferson had the whole pro-slavery thang, and Lafayette has an adorable french accent when he raps, so the choice was obvious. I'm not sure how this will work since we're both married and exist 200 years apart, but you'll figure it out. You're Santa!

3. My teeth. Remember the song "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"? Well, I'd like to keep as many as possible. Because of the damn Cushing's, the integrity of my bone and dental health is suffering, hence Le Previous Year of Broken Feet. Yesterday I had my first tooth pulled that had already cracked in half. Two more are giving the dentist the side-eye. So this request is not so much getting something as keeping something. Several things. S'il vous plait?

4. The ability to transform into a dragon. I recently read Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and have decided that the scaly, itchy skin patches I have acquired are not from Cushing's but are signs that I am half-dragon. This should come with some sort of magical powers and I have decided I don't need the powers, but would rather just become a gorgeous, mythical, flying beast. Sometimes. Like when politicians are being morons, I could pay a little visit. (FYI: I just spent 20 minutes looking for the perfect dragon picture to give you a decent idea, but nothing had that je ne sais quoi.)

5. That the family member who is sick is still with us at Christmas.

6. A llama.

That's my list, Père Noël. And you should totally hear my 8 year old niece rapping Lafayette:

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sipping Without My Ace of Spades

I have a natural tendency to look on the bright side of life (whistle...) Twenty two years ago, this very week, I gave birth to my baby girl. When my boyfriend and I found out I was pregnant, in college, it was overwhelming and there were many tears. However, not even a week after we had the confirmation, and the adamant choice to continue with the pregnancy, we found the positives. We were sitting on the floor of the university library, he leaning on the wall, and I nestled in front on him, his arms around my still-flat belly. Suddenly one of us realized, "We get to name it!" And we both smiled mischievously, and the fun side of parental responsibility came to fore. We joked around for a bit, but soon enough he said her name, and we both knew it was the one. Find the happy.

But 2017 was a tough one.

First of all, it's none of your business, and second, of COURSE I didn't vote for him!

As was evident in my previous post, I finally embraced anger and despair. This was good. Good for me. "Don't hold things in or they will turn into cancer," was one of my grandma's dying words. (The other was a full on swearing session to Stephen King because he wouldn't finish the damn Dark Tower series before she died. Steve, if you've been haunted by a Sicilian ghost, now you know why.) I keep things in. There's some good reasons in my past for this, but that survival strategy no longer serves me. I know, I know, I know that Cushing's was caused by a growth on my adrenal gland. But when I first found out the news and needed a surgery, I talked with my young nieces about it. My eight year old asked, "But Aunt Becca, will it grow again?" Although I could honestly tell her that the whole gland was coming out so no, the fear that another could grow on my remaining gland is there. The question to myself is, "how did it grow in the first place?" Like my grandmother's firm belief that some secrets caused her ultimate demise, I'm searching for how I can alter my life to keep another growth from forming.

Yeah, yeah, meditation. I know. I do that already.

I started 2018 with a guided meditation on letting go of the past year and setting positive goals for the future. In the beginning of my previous post, I stated that my memory of the past year was filled with a cloud of despair. I know it is a human tendency to focus on the negative; it's a survival mechanism. But it's not me. I'm the whistler on the cross, remember? Thinking back to my view of 2017 was like an image I recalled from biology class that showed what our body parts were in proportion to how touch sensitive they were. It's a freaky image.

Certain events and feelings totally out-sized others. There were plenty of moments of joy and fun and love and laughter last year with my students, family and friends. Yet the anger and sadness clouded my recollection. It's healthy to acknowledge the full range of emotions, but then I need to let them go. Writing the post, publicly throwing my heart out there, was healing. 

In the beginning of that new year meditation, I was guided to breathe in all the negative emotions of the past year. The guide took some time to do this with multiple, slow breaths to really imagine the people and situations that hurt us, blowing them out into a mental white balloon and then letting it float up into the stratosphere to pop and scatter into the basic elements of life. Woo-woo, whatever, it was a good image. I went through a LOT of balloons. 

Next was to imagine ourselves at the end of this new year having successfully completed a goal, intensely feeling that moment. I set the first goal that came to mind and held a published book in my hands. The positive emotions were heady. Quick, the guide said, pick an image that coincided with those emotions. I saw this:

Finally, we were supposed to make the image and carry it around in our pocket all year as a dedication to the goal. I went to our basement and found a deck that had some cards already missing, but the ace of spades was missing too. Why did we even have this deck? I threw it out. Then found a new deck that I didn't like the colors as much and found the ace of spades to use as my pocket friend. I think I had it four days before losing it on errands. If you find it at the Co-op, keep it for good luck, ok?

Alas, I'd have to ruin another deck of cards to keep up my image mantra thing. Can't do it. Too much of a gamer. I wish my mind had chosen a cup of steaming tea as the image, then I could just make it come true everyday. A Tulsi-Rose from Underground Alchemy was perfect during our frigid days (and more to come.) I'll keep sipping as my back-up. Tea. Ahh... What was I saying? 

Life of Brian, Teen Pregnancy, Sicilian Ghost, Sensory Homunculus, losing my Ace of Spades. In 2018 I shall embrace my more healthy well-rounded emotions while still enjoying my tea. And reading books. And playing Mad-Libs. An awesome friend and I do Mad-Libs through texting, and then meet up and read them out loud together for good laughs. I've actually been doing this while writing the post. We both needed an adjective. I typed "caffeinated", and she offered, "pumped-up." A fine way to begin the new year.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.