Grateful 365 #43 – A Beth

bethI talk a lot about friends in these grateful posts…and I regret nothing! Even if you don’t know my friends personally, I sincerely hope that everyone has had the good fortune to know people like them. If you haven’t found people like them, you should go out and start vigorously looking for some. (Pro-tip: I’ve found that the short ones tend to be fiesty. Bring extra pokeballs.)

beth balloon

Beth brought the balloons. And the tiaras (unfortunately not pictured.)

Today though, I’m grateful for Beth. She’s far and away one of the hardest working, most selfless, big hearted people I have ever run across. Here’s a perfect example: It was set to snow Tuesday morning (or so the weather said), and without any prompt, she offers to come pick me up to take me grocery shopping before the storm hits.

If that’s not impressive, keep in mind that she works hellishly long hours, is always running around keeping social appointments with people, and probably had slept like…4 hours in the past three days if I were to guess. She also lives a good 20 minutes away and had already brought me V8 & Mio and then driven me to Microcenter during my chemo-computer crisis last weekend.

beth2This is a girl who chases her dreams and ambitions with tenacity and purpose. A girl that cares deeply, genuinely, and unconditionally for the people in her life. A girl who knows loss and fatigue and frustration, but never lets them get the best of her. A girl that faces the world fearlessly and honestly. Everyday. She even manages to continuously care for people who have hurt her– an epic feat of strength and will and something we should all aspire to.

If there were any hours left in her days, I would wager that she’s a superhero on the side too. Knowing her, she could probably pull it off.

Even with everything she has going on at all times, she somehow manages to always be thinking of others. No, not just thinking–figuring out ways to help others and acting on it. It’s really unbelievable.

If you can find a Beth, hold on to her tightly…because she’s a friend that will always leave you in awe and make you want to be better at friendship yourself.

~all the love~

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Grateful 365 #26 – My Family

Family.

famcropNo one would be who they are without them. Some families are big. Some are small. Some are complicated or troubled. I could reflect for hours on how amazing families are as a social institution or how even the worst of families can still have astoundingly positive ramifications…

Today isn’t about all families though. Today is a moment for me to try to put into words what makes my heart swell with pride and warmth when I think about my family.

I was fortunate enough to be born into a happy, well-to-do home with two parents who never made any secret of their love for me. I enjoy saying that I’m the direct result of a musical actress-teacher and a New York ex-hippie English major. I feel that describes a lot, actually.cher and meg in da woods

As it is with most people, the pair that created me have long, fascinating histories of their own and I’ll need to reign myself in here to avoid my usual verbosity. In a nutshell, they were both, at their core teachers. Teachers, in my eyes, are special breed of people. Teachers are people with passion and a generous nature that wants to share that passion with others. My dad loves Shakespeare, old science fiction, civil war history, and all manner of comedies. My mother loved music, performance, and art in general. They both showed me what it was to have firm beliefs, but open minds and hearts. They both showed me all the joy in life and all the wonder of imagination. They taught me strength in every single way the word can be interpreted.Dad2

And that’s in a nutshell.

579689_10150802767576881_1306537912_nI have an older sister and although we grew close at an older age than most, there’s no doubt that we’re blood. We have the same laugh and a scarily (awesome) sense of humor. Simone has a kind heart and more talent in a variety of areas then most would know what to do with! Like most little sisters, I look up to her and hold her as my inspiration. She never gives up, always seems upbeat, and always puts her loved ones first, even when it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Both my mother and father have sisters, and that means that I have aunts, uncles, and nephews.

Soderstroms

The Soderstroms on my mother’s side have always been extremely close. Their oldest son, Henrik, is like a brother to me. We grew up together and share a lot of similar tastes in art and comedy to this day. Aunt Bonnie has been a second mother to me even before mom was lost to us and my Uncle Chris was as wise and kind as his wit was dry. My younger cousins, Didrik and Ulrik, came later and as time has passed, I’ve grown closer to botrh as well. It’s incredible how much talent, optimism, and humor this family has. They suffered an enormous loss when Uncle Chris passed away, but demonstrated to everyone the strength of their faith and the power of their love.

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The Straubs on my father’s side have taught me so much as well. In addition to sharing the “Waddell” humor, they have lived through so many struggles without losing spirit, hope, or optimism. Aunt Anne solidily demonstrates what it means to turn a tough situation into something that’s not only positive, but that benefits others as well. I can’t remember a time when Uncle David or my cousins, Matthew and Andrew, didn’t light the room up with laughter.

When we lost my mother to cancer, the world imploded for a little while. My father led me through loss and showed me how to grieve with hope.

Daddy and MarjoryI will tangent a moment and say that while many friends become family over time, there is a specific feeling of total acceptance, love, warmth, and belonging that I have always associated with my immediate family. It’s the same principal as old friends sharing so much of their memories and history that letting go or walking away isn’t even an option. Family, to me, is binding and immortal.

So when I say that years later my father introduced me to a member of our family that I couldn’t possibly imagine not having in my life, I mean just that. I have often struggled with what to call her in the third person because, to me “stepmother” heralds in awful Cinderallic thoughts and just seems…cold. Instead I’ve resolved within myself to call her my “mother-in-law,” if the need for titles arises– even if I need to give a few extra lines of explaination. Words matter to me, and there is nothing ‘step’ about our relationship or the level of regard I hold her in.

My dad has great taste, what can I say? :)Marjory and Judy

In a nutshell, Marjory is the epitome of compassion, loyalty, and justice. If that sounds like some superhero tag line, it might as well be. In a world where many nod their heads solemnly at the mention of the underprivileged and beleaguered yet do nothing, a great portion of her life has been dedicated to setting such things right. I have learned, laughed, and loved with her in the years we’ve known each other and am always left in awe of her amazing balance of strength and warmth.

I have more family then that as well! Simone brought Sue into the fold; Marjory brought Judy, Mark, and their kids as well as her son’s family; Henrik is bringing Dottie;Didrik is bringing Ashley; and Matthew has gotten engaged~! It’s exciting to gain sisters, brothers, and nephews as the years go by…but going further will have to wait for another day.

HenrikDottieMeAfterall, this is the abridged version of my family and there’s still so much more that I want to say. What words can thank a group of people for a legacy of laughter and optimism and a lifetime of love and support? How do you phrase a gratitude when those you’re thanking are the same ones who gave you the disposition to appreciate everything good in the world?

I love my family. I wouldn’t be me without them. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I wouldn’t be.
More than that, I’m proud of my family and feel blessed to know them. Individually, they are all amazing, inspiring people, and together there is no greater feeling of homecoming, welcome, and joy.

So today, and everyday, I’m grateful for my family.

~all the love~

Grateful 365 #20 – Unexpected Grace

Today a friend’s mother called me at work. Fortunately, she called while I was changing between the wet and dry portions and was able to pick up. I say fortunately not because I’m a conversationalist to be envied, but because in my rush to stay busy these past few days I’ve been guilty of neglecting phone calls here and there. It was fortunate because I’d meant to call her back days ago and would have felt awfully if I missed her again.

Once we connected, it was only a few moments before I had to sit down. Not bad news, mind you, but I was so touched that I nearly welled up several times as we chatted.

Not only was she aware that my treatment is tomorrow, but also remembered that as a general rule…I hate spending the night before chemo alone. Too much time in my own brain, you know? She offered to take me out to a Chinese buffet, and after accepting, we hung up.

I think I spent the rest of the workday gushing about how grateful I was to just about everyone I saw.

Not only was it an astonishingly thoughtful, loving gesture, but as dinner went on and we all (her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew) had a great time, I was reminded just how interwoven our lives can be and how fortunate we are when experiences merge and become something positive.

Beyond companionship and the present, we sat at the table as individuals with very different paths trailing behind us…but there were more common threads than one might expect on a cursory glance.

It sounds trite, but I really needed tonight. I needed to be with people whose stories I hadn’t heard in completion before and whose laughter I hadn’t shared as an adult. I learned a lot and left feeling loved and very, very blessed to know and be welcomed in the company I shared.

On the car ride home, Cathy and I spoke about the past her daughter and I shared and how long it had been since I’d spent time with their family. It really had been ages. We hit a point in the conversation where the phrase “at a certain point, age doesn’t matter anymore,” came about. Too true. Yet another thing I’m grateful for tonight.

I had trouble picking a phrase for today’s gratitude, because I have so, so much to be grateful for. I went for “Unexpected Grace” because a single, unforeseen phone call wound up changing my whole day, lightening my evening, and providing me with more goodness than I could have thought to wish for.  It seemed fitting.

I think I’ll be able to sleep easily when I finish this entry, and I’ll hold this warmness in my heart tightly through tomorrow.

emote warm heart

~all the love~

Grateful 365 #7 – Friends

friends

I am often stunned by the love, generosity, intelligence, and talent of those closest to me.
I am the luckiest girl in the world.

I am…alright at friendship, I’d like to think.

Not amazing. Not the best by far.

I know this because I have been blessed with a phenomenal, supportive, super-fun, and (omigosh!) varied group of individuals I’m lucky enough to count as my friends in the truest sense of that word.

They are amazing.

They are the best.

This will be a short entry if only because covering the breadth and depth of their awesomeness either as a whole or individually would take pages upon pages.

I could write essays on generosity, empathy, forgiveness, encouragement, and effort– marvelous gifts I’ve been the recipient of and attributes I am continuously admiring and trying to emulate.

And that’s just their qualities as friends! As human beings? As independent agents admired only by their own merits?

Suffice it to say that I have been really, really fortunate to have met the caliber of people I currently spend time with!

It would take at least an entry for each… But hey, with 365 days to chose from I’ve just made it a secondary goal.

The bottom line though? The tl; dr?

I have some friends I’ve known since second grade. I have six in particular I’ve shared a special bond with since early highschool. I work in an environment where, regardless of age, co-workers become friends. I’m lucky to have worked there long enough where I have ‘regimes’ worth of friends, some of who I’ve known nearly a decade at this point.

Being there when the going gets rough is important, but it’s not everything. The people who stand by and with me have done so and still do so whether the sun is shining high, shadowed by clouds, or imploding and sealing our fates as nuclear mole people.

They have laughed with me and cried with me. Tolerated and loved me through my worst and have always encouraged and supported my best.

If I could take the warms that are bubbling in my heart and stick them to the screen as I type, they would melt your monitor and dancing carebears would sprout from the plasticine goo that resulted.

I could type all night, but there are no words sufficient to express the enormity of presence, support and spirit these individuals provide eachother and me, nor prose sufficient to convey the affection and appreciation I have for them.

The hardest times are made easier with a word, a laugh, or even the memory of a smile.

Thank you all for who you are and what you do everyday.

~all the love~

Overthinking Nonsense (Post Chemo 2)

I’m progressively ambivalent toward my own attitude… Am I still in denial? Stubborn? I don’t know…

Some nights, like tonight, I feel this desperate urge to call someone over and just hug onto them and cry. Vent about how much chemo sucks and how much I hate feeling like shit and how much more I hate knowing that I’m going to feel like shit and how much it hurts to just exist some nights… Sob and cry and make a scene and have them say all those sweet placating words I already know myself…

And I think that last bit is exactly why I don’t… In the end, what is that other than selfish? “Hey! I feel awful! Join me! Oh, what’s that? You want to help me and seeing me like this makes you feel badly too? Too bad! There’s nothing you can do but sit here and be miserable with me and say words that both of us know really don’t change or fix anything…”

Yeah, that’s an awful thing to do to a person… and for what purpose? Making certain sure they know that chemo isn’t actually a cavalcade of fun and excitement? (I think that secret’s out.) Drag the mood down in order to reach conclusions I already know? (Oh. I need treatment to get better? I couldn’t possibly have thought of that myself! Thanks for spending a miserable few hours with me!)

At this point, most of my friends would likely remind me that I would absolutely hate it if I knew they were feeling badly and they kept it to themselves for similar reasons…and it’s true. I’d be absolutely livid…

I’d tell them that that’s part of being a good friend and that helping to shoulder the misery is the only thing I’d be able to do for them…I might even say that it was selfish to block everyone out because we want to help and giving us nothing is only making us feel worse and more helpless.

I really hate feeling helpless…I really would hate it if roles were reversed and my friends didn’t tell me.

I’ve always been good at double standards though, and writing is the one thing that’s always helped me sort my shit out.
…and the more I dwell on or give into this ‘poor me’ bullshit, the more I’ll feel entitled to it.

I’m not. I’m not because I have too much to be grateful for. I have a curable disease. I live in a place where I can get treatment. I can work. I can get financial assistance from a number of groups and have people to help me navigate all of that. I’m young. I’ve got a body that can handle treatment. I’ve got a mind and faith and friends and so much support that it often leaves me breathless…

All that is without venturing down the thought process of all those people who have it worse. IIA is nothing. Hodgkin’s is nothing. Worse case scenario, I have to endure this for a while longer…and then I’ll be cured. Done. It’s over. I’ve won.

Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone is certain they’ll win.

I always tell my students that it’s alright to be afraid and I’ll admit now that I am. I am afraid. I’m starting to hate the anticipation of chemo and (more so) neulasta more than the actual feeling shitty part.

However, the full speech I give is, “It’s okay to be afraid, but we can’t let our fear be bigger or stronger than we are. We can’t let our fear stop us from doing what we need to do.”

I may not take all of my own advice, but I’ll listen to me this once. Just like my children who stand with their toes at the edge of the pool, lip trembling and knuckles white, what I fear can’t hurt me. Maybe the sensations that follow will be new, maybe even uncomfortable, but in the end we’ll be okay. Just like those children, too much time spent crying and moaning and being told that my reactions are warranted and acceptable will only keep me from dealing with it and doing what I need to do.

So internet, I’m glad we had this talk. :) I’ll be back later with updates on all the stuff I’m grateful for rather than moaning.