10/21/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

My daughter’s birthday was last Tuesday and a loving uncle sent her a gift card for the store Forever 21. When a girl turns 17 and someone sends her a gift card, do you know what happens? The gift card follows her around on secret little feet and shrieks, “Use me use me use me use me!” until she can’t stand it anymore and so she convinces her mother that she has to go right now right now right now right now.

So we went.

When you are fifty-seven years old and your nerves have been a bit shot lately due to happenings in your life and you’ve always been sensitive to noise and to crowds and you like things orderly and neat, stores like Forever 21 are a nightmare. Narrow aisles. Clothes not just hung, but heaped spilling from piles on tables and racks and shelves and floors. Loud relentless music. Teenage girls and young women in high-pitched staccato conversation punctuated with shrieking laughter, barreling through the store with vaulting strides. Noise, noise, noise. People, people, people. Stuff, stuff, stuff.

But I love my daughter, so I took a deep breath and dove in.

And she loved EVERYTHING.

“Ohmygod! This is so poofy! And so soft! And ohmygod, I LOVE these! And look, the Care Bears! Ohmygod! Mario! Ohmygodohmygod, puffy camo! Oh, WOW! Rainbows!”

All at three thousand miles per hour with nary a breath in between sentences. Everything she loved got thrown over my extended arms. I soon became one of the messy racks.

Eventually, I followed her voice to the fitting rooms. The nice woman there put us in the furthest back room, a large room, with a great bench and faux stone wallpaper. As Livvy tried on clothes, she jabbered nonstop, and I got a few words in edgewise. I noticed her belt, bought for her when she was around 12, was getting more than a little frayed. “A new belt?” I asked.

“YES!”

I’d recently been in Claire’s, looking for jewelry for this child for her birthday (she got a necklace that is an iridescent skeleton of a mermaid – really) and noticed that there were displays of suspenders, thus announcing their return to the fashion scene. So I said, “Would you like suspenders?” She gasped, I thought in a positive way. “You’d have to wear your shirts tucked in though.”

“Ohmygod, NO!” she shrieked. “I don’t want to be a farmer! I’d be all, like, farmer’s market and ‘Hey, you wanna buy my potatoes?’”

And then she was gone in a gale of giggles. No, not giggles. Not for this kid. Guffaws. Howling happy totally in the here and now belly laughs at her very own self, at her own humor, and at the audacity of a mother suggesting suspenders.

Since she was a baby, Olivia’s laugh has been joyfully infectious. Whenever she laughed, people around her joined in. And so did I. Hearing her laugh today, seeing her laugh personified, her arms hugging herself in a fuzzy rainbow sweater, her head tossed back, in full roar, she shot me through with the joy she’s given me since she was born.

So I joined in.

When Olivia was around three, one of the therapists in the Birth To Three program said, “Even though she’s not speaking, there’s no doubt what Olivia is feeling. She IS her emotion. She embodies it.”

Today, she embodied joy and she threw it at me, drowning out the din of the store and the chaos of the last couple weeks.

Smart move. Because of course she got more than what her gift card covered.

So worth it.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Olivia at two years old. Can you see the giggle?
Olivia in one of the must-have finds from today.

10/20/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Generally, when I walk the dogs after lunch, I’m not particularly happy to be doing so. People use the phrase “herding cats” when something is difficult. “Trying to get everyone together for this meeting is like herding cats!” But you know what? I have two cats and I have two beagles. Herding cats is easy peasy compared to herding beagles.

The noses. The stomachs. The BADD – Beagle Attention Deficit Disorder. They go here, they go there, they stop and dig their feet into the ground and refuse to move until their noses have sniffed out every scent left in just that spot since the earth was formed. And there is always another spot just a step way. Trust me, I outweigh my beagles by quite a bit. But when they don’t want to move, I can’t move them.

But today was different. Today was quite possibly the most perfect capture of an in-between season. It was Summer/Fall. It’s October 20th, but I was wearing a t-shirt, capris, and sandals. It was sunny and warm. All around us, the leaves were falling. The trees were red and gold and orange. When we walked, there was that wonderful scuff-scuff sound that you get when you step through fallen leaves…but it was accompanied by the slapping flip-flop of my sandals. Summer! Fall! Summer/Fall!

It was glorious.

Even beagle-braking didn’t make me upset (yes, I meant braking, not barking).  I didn’t mind braking. I didn’t mind standing for moment and watching the leaves and feeling the sun and just…aaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Over the last couple weeks, well, ever since Michael lost his job on October 4th, I’ve been saying and thinking that I want to get back to June 19th. On June 19th, I didn’t know yet about the breast cancer. I knew I had an appointment the next day for my regular mammogram, but it was barely a blip on my radar as I figured out how the day was going to go, how I was going to rearrange my usual schedule before and after the appointment so that everything could still get done.

On June 20th, it all went according to plan until the mammogram. And then my world blew apart. I’ve been trying to put it back together ever since.

Standing in the sun today, feeling summer’s heat while fall leaves swirled around me and gathered at my sandal-clad feet, I felt it and saw it all. I saw the past: Summer. I saw the future: Fall. And I stood in the middle of them both in today.

Because I meditate, I get barraged with a lot of platitudes telling me to stay in the Now, be in the Present, Om, Namaste and so on.  And I do think it’s important to be aware of the present – that’s sort of what the Today’s Moment is all about. But I also think that being aware of the past and the future is important too. We learn from the past. We take our experience into the future.

Today, I reveled in the past – the heat and light of a summer almost gone. But I also rejoiced in the future – the colors, the swish and swirl of this not-quite-warm, not-quite-cold fall-about-to-be. And I stood in today, planted firmly by two stubborn beagles.

I am definitely learning from this past summer – the importance of self-care, the fragility of life, and I will never ever again go for four years without a mammogram. I am taking those lessons into the future, looking forward to all the bright colors and sounds, but also aware that things can change in a flat second.

And I am grateful for today. Even while dragging beagles around the block, and then having them drag me.

The things I learn from herding beagles. Don’t tell the cats.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Donnie.
Blossom.
Edgar Allen Paw.
Muse.

10/19/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Which one do I choose?.

I met over lunch with a book club that read Rise From The River, which was published in 2015. This was a wonderful change of pace for me; with a new book out, you typically end up talking about nothing but the new book. But here, I was able to go back and discuss the novel that took me 20 years to build up the courage to complete. And the discussion happened during the week of the #MeToo phenomenon, which was beyond kismet, as River is about what happens to a woman who becomes pregnant as the result of a rape. The book takes place during the first trimester.

This book club was an amazing collection of intelligent, articulate women. The discussion was thorough; the comments thought-out and sincere. Two women said that they are anti-abortion, but that this book opened their eyes to a situation where abortion needs to be an option. One said, “I always thought that abortion was a black or white issue; but after reading your book, I can see now that it’s not. It’s gray.”

As I sat and listened and sat and spoke, I was filled with that one moment that writers live for: the book spoke, it spoke clearly, and it said just what I wanted it to say. These women were touched, these women were moved, and these women understood. There is absolutely nothing like that moment. My book made a difference. Rainey and Doris, my two main characters, made a difference.

I made a difference.

In Grace’s Time was not ignored as the newcomer. The women asked about it and at the end, most everyone bought a copy. I did lots and lots of signing today.

When I left, I was exhausted and happy. The women gave me a couple envelopes which I figured were thank-you notes and I didn’t open them until I got home. When I did, I was bowled over. I didn’t know that the book club knew about my breast cancer and the issues I’ve faced since Michael lost his job. But those envelopes were stuffed with cash and two pre-paid gas cards.

I was beyond stunned.

And then…and then…

Last week, I had the happy accident of learning about the Authors League Fund. The ALF is associated with the Authors’ Guild, of which I’m a member, and it’s been around since 1917. I’ve never heard of it before. But it exists for the sole purpose of helping writers in financial duress, especially those with medical issues. Writers donate to it, and those funds are used to help writers who need it. I filled out the application, sent it in, and within 24 hours, found myself talking to someone about my situation.

When I got into my car after the book club today, carrying my envelopes and feeling happier than I have since Michael lost his job, I found an email from ALF. They are sending me a check which, when combined with the money raised by the GoFundMe campaign, will allow me to afford the six months of Cobra insurance I was asking for.

In my car, top down, sun everywhere, blue sky and autumn leaves offering a palette of color that didn’t have the word pastel in its vocabulary, two unopened envelopes in one hand, my phone displaying the email in the other, my ears still ringing with the discussion of River, I became totally unraveled.

You know what? For the first time since October 4, I think I’m going to be okay.

I am being lifted up by the kindness of students and readers. Writers. Friends and family. And I am being lifted up by the kindness of strangers.

I don’t even know what to say.

Yes, I do.

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

As I left the book club today, this was the view out my passenger side window.
And this is the road ahead of me.

 

10/18/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Last night, I presented In Grace’s Time at the Pewaukee Public Library for a Meet-The-Author event. When I finished reading, I took in a breath, about to ask if anyone had any questions. But before I could, a woman in the front row leaned forward.

“And you got all that,” she said, “ALL that…just from your mind?”

And I beamed. Because it is an amazing thing, isn’t it.

This magic of putting down a word and then another and finally a sentence and then you do it again and again and soon there’s a paragraph and a page and then a story and somehow it all comes together even though you likely started it all with a barely coherent thought…well, this has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s just such a wonder.

“All from my mind,” I answered. “Yes.”

The woman sat back and said, “Wow.”

I loved that wow.

I would like to say that, as the one writing the words, the one performing the magic, I’m the magician and I know how the trick works. But I don’t. The trick works me. And it surprises me every time.

Sometimes the magic hits a clunker. Remember Rocky and Bullwinkle? One of the segues in their show was when Bullwinkle says, “Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!” Rocky answers, “Again?” Bullwinkle persists, says, “Nothing up my sleeve…”, reaches into the hat and pulls out any number of non-rabbity things. Still magic, because how did that lion/monster/whatever get into the hat, but not the intended magic.

I was just reading a student’s manuscript and this student had a very Bullwinkle moment. This student is typically a magic master and so I was enthralled as I read. And then I hit the final line. And something very non-rabbity happened. Oh, dear.

But here’s more magic. I know we’re going to talk tomorrow and she’s going to make an unhappy face at me and then she’s going to get it right. And the story will get so rabbity, there will be a magic explosion. Complete with a handkerchief that never ends, a white dove, and a woman sawed in half.

Words are magic.

Over the last couple days, words proved their magic and their impact all over social media, on Facebook, on Twitter. A phenomenon. The motivation was to simply acknowledge if you were a woman who had been sexually harassed or assaulted in your lifetime. Two words, a total of five letters, smacked the face of the earth.

“Me too.”

I marveled.

I think, though, that I might have wondered something a little different than most. From comments that I read and articles that came too, it seemed like most of the intent was behind waking up the male gender to what they were doing. But I wondered if this would wake some of the female gender up as well.

The women who rushed to the movie theatres to see 50 Shades Of Gray, a movie that glorified rape and abuse and called it romance, based on a book that glorified rape and abuse and called it romance. The women who read that book in their book clubs, particularly those who did it in their mother and daughter book clubs.

Women who voted for the Orange Asshat, even after he admitted to assaulting women. Women who, after that admission, came to his rallies wearing printed t-shirts proclaiming, “Donald! Grab this pussy!”

The words on those t-shirts were not magic. They were the lion/monster/whatever that has given me nightmares ever since.

But now I’m dreaming. Hopeful dreams.

Because there is magic in two words. Five letters.

Me too.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Yep.

 

10/17/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Seventeen years ago today, at the age of 40 years old, I gave birth to my fourth child, my second girl, and the only child from my second marriage. Because of my age, and because she was my fourth, I thought I had everything under control. I’d seen it all, I thought. A son who couldn’t stand to touch jello or shaving cream or mud or grass or to wear blue jeans or t-shirts with the tag on the inside. Another son who became so obsessed with maps that we canceled our AAA and used him to get us from Waukesha, WI to Washington DC…at the age of five. A daughter who learned after only one repetition, they told us, when the average person takes at least five, and who they wanted to skip at least two grades (we said no, thank you). Map son also a boy who was scared of EVERYTHING…cars, trucks, airplanes, sirens, trains, lawn mowers, fish, exposed rafters (yes, rafters – only kid I know who was terrified of Toys R Us). Don’t-touch-me son who became so enraptured with dinosaurs that at the age of four, he led a presentation on the topic to a group of first-graders, complete with Q & A and the ease of a seasoned speaker. Learns-fast daughter who wanted to do all things boy while wearing a dress and tights, and who soaked her socks because she wanted to pee like her brothers.

I’d seen a lot. Olivia couldn’t be that different.

Right.

When the word autism was handed to us, I didn’t know what to think. Olivia was difficult at times. She was nonverbal until she was three. But I always thought of her as just Olivia. She was herself. She was quirky. My quirky (exhausting), quirky (creative), quirky (sees the world in her own way) girl.

Her presents today, at seventeen: a pink ukulele. A multi-medium combination painting of a VW Beetle. A necklace of a skeleton of a mermaid, and skeletons for her ears too. Infinity bracelets. A shirt that says, “Uke, I am your father,” with a picture of a guitar and a ukele on it. And a few other things for my quirky (goofy) girl.

Tonight, I appeared at the Pewaukee Public Library. They had a nice reception and then I read from In Grace’s Time. Taking questions afterwards, a woman raised her hand and told me she was currently reading Oddities & Endings. “I’ve only read a few stories so far,” she said, “but it’s clear you write…quirky.”

And I do. I’m known for quirky characters. Characters that aren’t like anybody…but are also just like somebody you know.

And then I realized. Inside (my mind when I’m writing, my body when I’m pregnant), I produce quirk. And outside (my stories and my children), I produce quirk. Quirk, for me, is normal.

Must be that quirkiness is genetic.

But I look at these four children, three who are now amazing adults, one who is an almost-adult and well on her way to amazing, and I love them for their differences. I had to give up on reading parenting books because my kids were never ever represented in those pages. But mothering now for thirty-three years, almost thirty-four, it’s been an incredibly rich experience. And when I look behind me on my desk, at the seven books lined up there, each one the first out of the box when my copies were sent to me by my publisher, I love each and every one of my characters too, for their differences. I also gave up, early on, on reading how-to-write books, because what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it, was never ever there.

My kids accept their differences. And I accept mine.

So I guess I love the difference in me too.

Happy birthday to my youngest baby.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

My favorite portrait of the three big kids. From left to right, Andy, Katie, Christopher. Now 31, 30, and 33.
Baby Olivia. Now 17.

 

10/16/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I took a sort of unintentional mini roadtrip today. I’ll be appearing at Tribeca Books & Café in Watertown, WI, in November, and they wanted five copies of In Grace’s Time for promotional purposes. My publicist could have mailed them, but I decided to take them out there myself, as I’d not seen this particular bookstore.

Watertown is about a forty minute drive away, or so Google maps told me. It was a lovely day, one of those days that reminds you not only of the summer days you just had, but of the winter days to come, because you can just feel the last-minute of it. So I took Semi, my convertible, put the top down, turned the heated seat on, turned the temperature control on the heat to 78 degrees, put on a jacket, and I headed down the freeway. I’d been told that I would just exit the freeway and go straight to the store…but Naggie, my GPS, had other ideas.

I have a strange GPS. I have had her since the early 2000s, and I haven’t replaced her because she has a way of sending me on journeys. I’ve known other people with the same model GPS, but when we go to the same place, Naggie takes me a different way. She always gets me where I’m supposed to be, though, so I’ve learned to trust her. And somehow, she seems to always know just what I need.

So I was tooling down the freeway, wind whipping, heat on, music up, singing, when Naggie yelled over it all, insisting that I exit in an unexpected place. There hadn’t even been signs for Watertown yet, not even on those signs that tell you how far away different cities are. But I did as I was told. And after just a couple of orders to “Turn left here, then right,” and “turn right here, then left,” I found myself in absolutely stunning middle-of-nowhereness. I shut off the music and Semi and I just scrolled the two-lane roads. We saw:

*cornfields gone to gold and trees gone to orange and yellow,

*barns that whispered their red and barns that boasted it,

*farms and farms and farms. Some with names like Homeview and Sweetsong,

*cows and horses and goats. When the big kids were young and Olivia was younger, it was our tradition to make the sounds of all the animals we passed. I honored that tradition,

*two small tilted-headstone graveyards. I wanted to stop and pay my respects, but there was no time, so I bowed my head as I drove by. I did the same with the two dead deer,

*a little clear-glass lake, crowned with a rusted bridge,

*pumpkins for sale, displayed on picnic tables, around trees, on old, old wagons, and a lucky few that became the heads of scarecrows,

*a man mowing his lawn on an old John Deere, who waved at me as I passed (the man did, not the tractor),

*and quiet. Just the purr of my engine, the hum of tires, and the rustle of trees. Quiet.

It was lovely. And it was just what I needed.

Thank you, Naggie.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

I didn’t stop to take photos today, because I had to get back home to pick up Olivia from school. But I found this old photo of fall on the Fox River. It’ll do.

10/15/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today, I introduced one of my students at the launch of her first novel. This has become a not-so-uncommon thing at AllWriters’, but it is no less extraordinary than the first time I did it. In the last four years, almost 100 AllWriters’ writers have landed traditional book-publishing contracts. In that same four years, we’ve not gone a single week without an AllWriters’ acceptance in a magazine or an anthology. It’s amazing, and no one is more amazed than I am.

Helping students to reach their goals and their dreams is a primary joy in my life. Watching them step headlong into their success is another.

I’ve heard lots of thank-yous. That’s also not-so-uncommon, but always extraordinary. Each one bowls me over. Today’s student said, “I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for Kathie.”

But it’s a partnership. If I had a student that didn’t have the drive to remain standing, there would be nothing I could do to keep his or her feet on this earth. But those students who want to remain standing even as they question if they can, well, I can join forces with them and help raise them up strong.

My favorite moments? When I look at a student, see him or her holding their published poem, published story, published book, and I lean in and say, “I told you so.”

I said it to a student whose book was accepted last week. I said it to a student whose book was accepted a month ago. And I said it to this student whose book launched today. I said it and I will say it again.

The student today signed her book for me with, “You kick ass.”

Yes, I do.

When I came home from the event, I tucked this student’s book with the others on the special shelf that showcases AllWriters’ authors. Then I tucked a second copy into our Little Free Library, doing my own little launch ceremony, celebrating another AllWriters’ success, sending that student’s work out into the world.

As I walked up the stairs to my office, where I will settle for the rest of the night, reading manuscripts, critiquing, editing, it was with a great sense of satisfaction.

And you know what? Satisfaction gets you through.

There’s been a lot of crap in my life lately. From breast cancer to my husband’s job loss to the threat of no insurance and breast cancer treatment screeching to a halt and one of our dogs today ripping a claw out of her foot and spouting blood like a demon and requiring a sudden trip to the emergency vet and god knows what else, a day like today makes one thing ring loud and clear in my mind and my heart and my soul.

I love my life. I love what I do. I regret nothing.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

My student Colleen Glatzel signing books at her book launch.
And Blossom, the dog who became a geyser today when she ripped her claw out of her foot. See the stylin’ neon green bandage?

10/14/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Grandbaby Maya Mae was over again today, so we took her out to dinner at her favorite restaurant: Applebees. Maya Mae is a great connoisseur of macaroni and cheese, applesauce and apple juice.

As the four of us, Michael, me, Olivia and Maya Mae, sat and waited for our food, and I nursed the vat of watermelon sangria in front of me, I couldn’t help but notice the variety of topics that bounced around our table. The Spoon River Anthology. Whether or not girls should be allowed into the Boy Scouts and if boys should be allowed into the Girl Scouts.  Fashion, particularly admiring the fringe vest that Maya wore. My upcoming visit to Olivia’s high school, talking about the writing life with the students there, and then on the computer with students at the online school .Best friends, boyfriends. Maya listed seven kids that are her closest friends in 4K, including a boy named Scofield. We discussed the name Scofield.

At one point, Maya Mae put her hands on her hips and declared, “You know what, Gamma Kaffee? Dey don’t even haf show’n’tell yet!”

Wait, what? No show’n’tell? The horror! The horror! “No show’n’tell?” I raved, appropriately shocked.

“No! An’ I haf stuff to SHOW!”

I’ve no doubt about that.

She also told us that there are two playgrounds at school…the big one and the little one. “You haf to walk to da big one from da little one,” she informed. “And you haf to walk to da little one from da big one.”

Makes perfect sense to me. But no show’n’tell?

From there, we somehow got on the subject of banned books. I googled for Olivia “banned books in the Waukesha school district”, and we pored over the variety of articles on parents trying to get certain books removed from the shelves of school libraries. We weren’t able to find one article where the book was actually removed; the banning was always shot down.

Still, Olivia huffed and took down the names of the books that were threatened. She vowed to read every one.

I remembered and talked about my own time in this high school, with one of my favorite classes, which was called Growing Up In Literature And Reality. We read The Catcher In The Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, Wanda Hickey’s Night Of Golden Memories. I hope beyond hope that my daughter and granddaughter are exposed to these books in school. If not, they’re all on my own shelves in the AllWriters’ classroom.

I found an article on the 10 most commonly banned books in public schools and Olivia pored over that one too, while I played peekaboo with a jack-in-the-box Maya Mae. Often the only part of her I could see was her splayed-fingered little hand on the surface of the table, while the rest of her ducked under.

When we walked out to the car, that same warm little hand tucked itself into mine without my asking and I smiled in the starry dark. I love that little hand.

As we drove home, I listened to the two of them in the back seat, seventeen-next-week Olivia and five-in-January Maya. Chirpy voices. Olivia went to her first concert last week, to see a band called I Prevail, which I’ve never heard of. Turns out Maya Mae sings a song by them. 12 years between them, they synced with music.

I thought of them, each with their hands on their hips. Maya outraged that her school hadn’t offered show’n’tell yet when she had things to show, and Olivia outraged over banned books when she has a desire to read. Maya wants to SHOW! and Olivia wants to KNOW! Neither one of them shy about expressing their feelings or their needs. Neither one shy about making demands and standing up for her rights.

I smiled in the starry dark. And kept on listening.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Not the best photo, but Olivia and Maya nattering away at dinner.

10/13/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I wore a bra today!

Okay, so that has not been an accomplishment since I was eleven years old and my mother grudgingly handed me a white chest band with a little pink rose in the middle, which I think was supposed to signify where my future cleavage would be. My mother really didn’t want me to start wearing a bra – she held off for as long as possible. I’m not exactly sure why, but she did prescribe to the “Once you start shaving, your hair grows in thicker and you can never ever stop” theory. So maybe she thought bra-ing those budding breasts meant they would get bigger faster and cause all sorts of problems.

Well, you know. There were a few.

The bra has been an on-and-off thing – literally – since my breast cancer diagnosis on June 27th. For a while, after surgery, the incisions hurt, and the lymph node one was just below the underarm strap, causing irritation and pain. It was painful not to wear one too, which made it an awful tit-for-tat situation (yes, that’s deliberate). And then, just as bras became comfortable again, radiation began. I was doing okay until near the end, but then the burns showed up, followed by the peeling, and bras again went out the window. Not literally.

As I’ve spent the last month braless, it’s brought back many memories. College years, vacillating between being a wild child while I thought I was being a wild woman, breasts loose and free and easy beneath my t-shirts and sweaters (and yes, I chose my words very carefully), and being a radical feminist, convinced that my participating in marches with my fist high in the air, my breasts marching with me beneath my “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” t-shirt would somehow free the masses, especially the female masses. Not wearing a bra then was a sign of freedom, of individuality, of not being under the thumb of the Man.

But for the last month of my 57-year old life, being braless has been a sign of annoyance and anger and wondering if life was ever going to be normal again.

This morning, facing a day where my clients were all either on Skype (seeing me from the shoulders up) or the phone, I dressed with the abandon of not really needing to see anyone. My favorite ripped and threadbare happy jeans (Michael saw them draped over the loveseat the other day and he said, “Aren’t these the jeans you were going to throw out?” I just can’t.) and my Ray Bradbury t-shirt, soft with frequent wears and trips through the washing machine. But before I pulled Ray over my head, I cautiously put on a bra. I walked around the room. I twisted to the left and right.

No pain.

When I was fully dressed, I stopped for a moment in front of our full-length mirror. “Well, okay now,” I said, a variation of yesterday’s mantra, “Oh, well.”

I believe the operative word here is “well.” Because that’s what I’m moving steadily toward.

Wearing a bra today is an accomplishment. A sign of recovery. I suppose it’s possible that my mother’s prediction that wearing a bra could only lead to trouble was true, given what was in my future. But my words today are true too.

Well, okay now. I’m well. I’m okay. Now.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

I can!

(Just a P.S.: The GoFundMe campaign, to help me afford insurance while my husband is out of work so I can continue with breast cancer treatment, can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/kathies-breast-cancer-recovery)

10/12/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

So I’ve suddenly developed a new form of insomnia. I’ve always had trouble falling asleep, but since beginning meditation 576 days ago, I conk almost immediately. For the last week, I’ve been going to bed between two and three, as usual, but then I’m awake again at four, until around six. I lay in bed and I ruminate, perseverate, mull, and generally stew.

This morning, I kept thinking about how some have said that Michael’s employer’s decision to let him go wasn’t “personal”.

And I realized that that’s just my point. It SHOULD have been personal.

When we lose sight that there are human faces behind most everything that gets done in our world, when we lose sight that there are human lives, human needs, hell, just HUMANS, then we all get in trouble.

Years and years ago, when Olivia was still a newborn, Michael was let go from the advertising agency where he was working. We had a new baby and three teenagers. I didn’t have the studio yet, instead teaching anywhere and everywhere in community and continuing education that would take me. Money wasn’t just tight, it was gone. We had one week where we had $30 to feed the family – and Olivia’s formula cost $20.

That was not pretty.

But the advertising agency, who had to lay people off because of losing a big account, didn’t just show people the door. The ones that remained began to network and network and they didn’t stop until everyone who lost their jobs had a new jobs. Michael was working within a month.

That company saw the humans behind the numbers, the additions, the subtractions, the ins and outs of a business.

At AllWriters’, I keep close tabs on everyone. Sometimes, I have a student who can’t quite afford to pay for what he or she needs. Sometimes, I have a student who needs a little extra help. They get it.

I know that some would say that this is why I am 57 years old, in charge of a successful business, and unable to afford to buy health insurance. That could be. But you know what? I don’t regret it. And I would do it again. I do it still. Because it’s the right thing to do.

So I kept mulling. And at around 5:30, I suddenly heard two words, loud and clear:

Oh, well.

And I thought, what?

Oh, well.

And then I figured out what I was trying to tell myself. I am doing everything I can to combat this, but there is only so much I can do. And in the end, what’s going to change? Even if months go by and I ultimately lose my health insurance, what am I going to do? Jump in front of a bus?

Of course not. I would get out of bed the next morning and go to work. Reading manuscripts. Meeting with students. Helping them get to where they want to be. Cheering for them when they do.

Just like I did this morning. Just like I’ve done for the last thirteen years. Well, actually, 21 years, if you go by my whole teaching career. 42 years, if you go by my writing career.

Seeing the human faces of every single person I work with. And taking them personally.

Because that’s what I do. I’d keep living…until I’m not anymore.

And then I fell asleep, harder and deeper than I have for a week. Maybe longer.

Oh, well. It’s my new mantra.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Teaching.
And writing. The things that I do best.