I Made It

This is my final blog post that is done solely fro the reason I will be graded on it. It’s a bittersweet moment. When this quarter started, overwhelmed would have been a kind description of my nattered and torn psyche.

Since then, I’ve found bits of my brain while still searching for the main engine room, had my thyroid meds changed, had my son in more trouble than I want to think about, and met a group of new friends that make me feel safe outside of school, and made a few from class who hoed this row with me in my difficult classes.

Is it worth it? Was it worth the loss of time on my own writing, my art, my sewing…MY FAMILY? Short term, part of me feels that the answer is no. I was late returning edits on a book for a publisher that was all but proofread when the quarter started, didn’t finish a single painting, was exhausted beyond belief, have had to deal with the regression of my 7  yo Down Syndrome child whom is still struggling with the concept that I am okay, even if he can’t see me, a husband who is working full time PLUS so he can provide and trying to meet his needs, and I’ve had to deal with crippling uncertainty as I’ve come to grips with my new learning levels.

However, I’m not generally one stuck on the shortsightedness of the here and now. My pragmatic side kicks in, turning dark thoughts to ones of hope. Is it worth getting my general AA? Yes. Many of these credits are artistic in nature, some writing, and others, general knowledge that will help me write what I need to sell my art and writing. Also, I finished something.

I started this journey around fifteen years ago, when my son was a baby. I’ve had cancer, babies (unexpected), moved many times, lost a home, job, a brother to a senseless accident I still can’t believe resulted in death. I had to beg for reinstatement of financial aid as my health deteriorated before they found that the goiter was cancerous. I had to deal with the fact I was just plain too fucking tired to do more than see that there was grass, but not even look at what color the Jones’ grass was, because dammit, I couldn’t even walk on mine.

Amidst it all, I had to deal with my mother’s voice in my ear telling me I was incapable of finishing anything. I’ve had up to 13 books published through publishers (I’ve seen pulled them, and re-released a few) of all different lengths and styles. Yet, that naysaying of my ability to finish is all I heard IN MY HEAD because I hadn’t finished my AA. Like a black cloud of turbulent winds following me around, it eroded my confidence in myself. Every time I filled out a dreaded application, the empty box of finished degree that I  could not check glowed the like neon lights, accusing me of not being good enough. I was always over qualified or underqualified. Although that’ll still be true, at least I have an AA and experience (which will sometimes equate to a BA), and I FUCKING FINISHED IT.

This quarter has been full of introspection for me because of the short term costs for my family and I. However, at the end of it, I’ve grown stronger. I believe that me finishing has been a good example to my kids. Eventually, as Isaac gets older, I’ll do a quarter at a time to get my MFA. In the meantime, I finished. Today is the last day of classes, and even if I bomb the finals (which to me means getting less than a B), I have enough credit to pass my classes.

I made it.

Well, hell.

It’s late, but I’m posting anyway. This week has just been off. Some medical issues (not serious, just time consuming and annoying, mainly because if they aren’t taken care of, it turns into major issues), some family issues, which spilled over into school issues.

However, in the midst of all this malaise and meh-ness, I had a breakthrough.

As anyone who follow me knows, I’ve had thyroid cancer, which means, I had both thyroids removed. This caused major brain fog. As the years progressed, my meds haven’t been quite right (partly due to health care availability), which meant I could feel my IQ points slithering their way into the ionosphere as I continued a downward slope.

It’s disheartening to have your ability to learn curtailed, thrown into a tight, sealed container, with keep out signs in the forms of cannon blasters that gave you migraine style headaches if you tried to cross that path anyway.  I retained basic math skills, partly, I believe, because I was a bookkeeper at the time. I’ve retained a large portion of my reading skills (though retention was ever an issue and I slowed down my pace some, but at least I could still read and write) and some of my art skills, and worked on improving them around my newfound learning skills.

Since having my cancer, this is the first quarter I’ve had a full load at college again. It. Has. Been. Hard. Hard as hell. I’ve struggled with so many aspects. I spent the first two weeks in a panic (no, this is not an exaggeration) because I couldn’t find my brain, like I’d been using a back up generator, but when I went back to fix the main power source, it was gone. Kaput. I was in tears nearly every day as I struggled to stretch my retention skills, find my way through things I used to be able to do without trying.

Early in the quarter, I missed two days of meds because I wasn’t home and forgot to bring my medication with me. Holy hell, I don’t recommend doing that. I struggled with math. What made it worse was/is students who make comments, that you’re never quite sure if they mean for you to hear them or not. For instance, if I’m relieved that we don’t have to do trig anymore in my 100 level Astronomy class, another student rolls his eyes and says, “It’s college.” as if that means EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW TRIGONOMETRY. HELLO, WORLD. Did you know first years are supposed to be comfortable with trig or they get made fun of?

On top of this, all of my life, I’ve had text anxiety. In high school, a very good teacher realized it, and sort of did his own test to see if he was right. Maybe to prove to me I know the stuff and shouldn’t get so stressed? I don’t know. He gave us a paper to do. Said no sharing, or book, he just wanted to see where we were at. I got A+++ Did all the work and extra credit, no struggle. The very next day, he gave us same paper, said it was a test, and I got a B…and I struggled hard. Well, at forty some years old, that the dread, the firey fear of not passing hasn’t changed, but my recall has been severely impaired.

I was to the point of wanting to quit school. However, I’m stubborn. I cried. I’d been sharing my test anxiety on FB, and friends from high school who know I’m not an idiot, have been encouraging me. I hit the point where I talked to a teacher about alternate testing methods. That was last Friday. This past Monday, I had an astronomy exam. I’d lost have the notes for the class, was on the way to a meltdown. I used some skills I’d been teaching myself in mind-over-matter, and found a visual. Every time this deep dread sought to take over my mind, every time pop-rocks exploded in my gut and threatened to release the Kracken, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and used the visual. I got a B on the test. A ten percent higher than average, AND that was without half my notes!

This has been one of the worst weeks in my personal life since school started as far as my outside obligations getting in the way. Yet, I had a breakthrough on Monday for my thyroid issues and memory stuff at school! Holy hell, it’s been a week.

So, even though this week threw a dark slew of problems at me, tried to take me down, I prevailed, and I hope, that by doing so, I made a difference. I hope that others struggling with test anxiety or other things have been inspired to rise above it, to challenge themselves, to be in the darkness watching for the stars until they become a star.



I Am Alive

Yes, I am alive. Happy to be so. I’ve seen so many deaths in recent months, that I’ve become introspective about death. With my brother’s death anniversary cropping up so close to the death of loved ones, I have been able to be more on point in wording of compassion to those who need it. I’ve tried to do what I would need done. Mostly, though, I’ve been grateful for those still left with me and for my own improving health.

Allergies are smacking me in the face, and my son is getting hit as well. For five years, (seven total in the last 17 years) I lived in a place that tried to kill me. Rag weeds, fertilizer plant, industrial sand blasting, I lived within 50 feet of them at one point and half a mile for the five year stint. Doctor said I would day if we stayed there. We left the first time, but were forced back.

Both times in living there, I almost died. First time, while pregnant. During the five year stint, I could pretty much count on being sicker than a dog for 90 percent of my life there. I tried exercising, meds, everything I could. It would work in spurts, until a specific pollen or black mold caught me, and then it was months and months of being terrorized by snot, which in turn slammed me with bronchitis and pneumonia. At one point, if my husband had not stayed home instead of leaving as I told him he could, I would of died. Instead, he took me in.

So when I say I’m alive, I mean it fervently and with great joy. I am alive. Alive to enjoy the smell of petrichor, alive to see the reds and purples against the dark green foliage, alive to scent the sweetness of lavender and roses, alive to hear the birds chirping and squawking.

I am alive.


Wrenching Grief

Tears have filled the well of my heart and spilled over.

I’ve been trying to be upbeat and funny in my blogs over the years. Though my Your Book, Your Business series gets down and rough some of the time, I want people to look at and find the positive side of writing amidst the negative that’s all too easy to see and hear.  Today is different.

Today, I’m grieving.

Perhaps, if this wasn’t an assignment, I’d not write this. I may have, though. I know as well as anyone how writing is cathartic. However, it’s been seven years. Seven. An emotional seven years full of trench deep lows and Oort Belt highs. An intense seven years have passed as of Monday, April 25, since a freak accident took my twenty five year old brother. He was the glue that held me to my adopted family, the one I could be open with, who accepted me as I was. He made a point of seeing me before leaving on that fateful move to Georgia, even though I lived like four hours out of his way.

Our children, my youngest, his oldest (and turns out only) child were born a mere three weeks apart, his a beautiful girl, mine a beautiful boy. His wife and child put the most tender look on his face that I’d ever seen on him. They were his whole world, and he was taking them on an adventure to better their lives.

Those precious moments meant more to me than he could possibly fully comprehend. When you’re left out and left behind, when assumptions are made that are impossible to know where to begin to defend because they’d been made for years without your knowing, most not based in truth, or with a twisted version impossible to unravel, you begin to expect the worst. Your heart becomes like an Arthurian stone holding on to the sword, never letting loose.

But he always took his own path; he loved and laughed on his terms. Grief, after years of being manageable, has struck like a mac track hitting a wall, leaving bricks and mortar of your soul scattered across the black floor, shards to trip you up and make you bleed.

Dark, harsh, relentless grief has no time limit. It will wilt your insides, churn them up like butter then spit them out in a configuration of salty wetness or verbal bile. Burning like blue fire, hot and cold, it tears you apart; the inferno either swallows you into vast nothingness, no longer having even mass, or it forges you.

I’m not a stranger to pain, to grief. From child hood abusers, project kids who bit and kicked and worse to being an adult ho finally understands the stigma associated with those abuses, and a spouse who beats you, therein lies pain.

Having a son go into respiratory arrest multiple times will tear you into shreds of panic, flaying your heart and throwing the pieces into your throat so that even air causes pain. That scary moment, while driving, you have to reach back, grab a handful of his shirt with the carseat straps, and essentially punch your son in the chest because he’s quit breathing and you have no one to help. Your one friend isn’t around, and your other is waiting for your other child as you frantically drive from a dinky town to a small one with a small hospital. That moment will NEVER leave your mind, haunting you as if it were yesterday at the oddest moment.

I’m used to going at it alone. So used to it, that I forget–or chose not–to cry for help. My heart turned into icicles during that time of my life, and I learned to keep things compartmentalized, and it took a lot to let people in. God help them if they betray me. It all bottled up over time, and I became a crier. I haven’t lost that part, but I am learning to not bottle it all up.

When my daughter had brain surgery, I learned the benefits of social media. My FB family proved I’d grown, opened up, if only to crack open the door, and social media became a more ritualistic outlet for me.

So today, I’m blogging this.

I’m using what I learned before to help me now as grief clutches my heart with razor sharp claws to pierce me with the shadows of sorrow. I’ll write until the sun breaks through and gives new life to reverberate within my soul, like crocuses breaking through the hard wintery ground.

I will do more than survive. I will become. Become someone I love more, someone who can lead others to the light, to see that grief isn’t an end, to help them learn to reach out and love so that they too can become.

Today, I will kiss my son and laugh with all my children, enjoying my blessings and thankful for the love shown me by my kid brother and pass it on.